March 14, 2022: -Regulators in the E.U. and U.K. have opened antitrust probes into Google and Meta, Facebook, over the tech giants’ 2018 ad deal.
On Friday, the parallel probes will look at whether the so-called “Jedi Blue” agreement between the more companies hampered competition in markets for online display advertising services. Online display ads are graphic ads that appear on websites, mobile apps, and social media.
According to a group of U.S. state attorneys generals in January, the Jedi Blue deal is allowing Google and Meta to rig auctions for online ads and illegally fixed prices, with smaller companies suffering as a result. Both companies rejected the claims at the time.
Andrea Coscelli, CEO of the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, said in a statement on Friday, “We’re concerned that Google may have teamed up with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors who provide an important online display. Is advertising services to publishers.”
“If one company has a stranglehold more than a certain area, it can make it hard for start-ups and smaller businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice,” he added.
The regulator said it wants to determine if the tech giants restricted or prevented the uptake of “header bidding services,” enabling news publishers to sell their online advertising space to multiple buyers at the same time instead of receiving offers individually.
Many publishers are relying on online display advertising to fund online content for consumers, Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy for the European Commission, said in a statement.
“Via the so-called ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement amid Google and Meta, a competing technology to Google’s Open Bidding may have been targeted to weaken it and exclude it from the market for displaying ads on publisher websites and apps,” she said.
“If confirmed by our investigation, this would restrict and distort competition in the already concentrated ad tech market, to the detriment of rival ad serving technologies, publishers, and ultimately consumers,” Vestager further said.