Antitrust In AdTech: Dissecting EC’s Recent Investigation Against Google

Authored By: Anchit Nayyar



Abstract

On 22nd June, 2021, the European Commission launched formal antitrust investigation into Google’s monopolistic practices in the provision of its AdTech services, ie. the intermediary services responsible for display of digital advertising on websites and applications. This comes closely after regulators in the UK and Australia concluded their detailed market studies into the sector. This article analyses the scope of the investigation, and its significance from an antitrust perspective. It further highlights the inherent conflict between competition and data protection laws in the sector, and also gives certain key arguments that might be raised against intervention. The article concludes by analysing the various remedies that could be adopted to alleviate the competition concerns in the investigation, while also addressing their privacy implications.



Introduction

Digital display advertising (advertising in the form of banners, pictures etc. on mobile apps and webpages), with its ability to provide personalized, targeted advertisements is dominating the overall advertisement sphere, while also enabling tech companies to keep their services free for their users. There has thus been a huge demand for Online Advertising Technology (“AdTech”) for managing, hosting and delivering personalized digital display advertisements.


However, despite its rapid development, concerns have arisen regarding the state of competition in the industry, especially relating to Google’s dominant position in the market. On 22nd June 2021, the European Commission (“EC”) opened