Australia challenges Google’s advertising dominance, calls for data-use rules

The country’s antitrust regulator claims Google dominates Australia’s online advertising industry to the point of hurting publishers, advertisers, and eventually consumers and is pushing for new laws to reign in the Big Tech giant.

A report released on Tuesday by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that in 2020 more than 90 percent of clicks on ads sold through Australia’s “ad tech” supply chain had gone through at least one Google service.

The country’s antitrust regulator claims Google dominates Australia’s online advertising industry to the point of hurting publishers, advertisers, and eventually consumers and is pushing for new laws to reign in the Big Tech giant.

It was also discovered that Google had used its power to favour and protect its own services from the competition.

Google, for example, prevents competitor ad tech services from accessing YouTube ads, giving its ad tech services a significant edge.

A Google spokesperson could not be contacted for comment immediately.

In a statement issued alongside the report, ACCC chair Rod Sims stated, “Google has used its vertically integrated position to run its ad tech services in a way that has, over time, contributed to a less competitive ad tech industry.”

“Google’s dominating position in the ad tech supply chain has been established and entrenched as a result of this behaviour.” 

Because the interests of these parties do not align, Google’s activities across the supply chain mean that it can act on behalf of both the advertiser [the buyer] and the publisher [the seller] in a single transaction and operate the ad exchange connecting these two parties. “As the interests of these parties do not align, this creates conflicts of interest for Google, which can harm both advertisers and publishers.”

The regulator says Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., has benefited from massive amounts of personal internet usage data in Australia, from its search engine, map service and YouTube video streaming service. 

This gives Google a “data advantage” over its competitors and needs to be more transparent about using this information to sell advertising. 

The regulator wants unique powers to deal with the imbalance in advertisers’ access to customer statistics, such as through rules that force them to separate the statistics between business units or share data with competitors. 

 The “Ad Tech” report became part of the ACCC’s broader investigation into online systems that resulted in Google threatening to withdraw the country’s major deals over laws forcing it to pay for media content that drives traffic to its website.

 Digital Advertising Services Inquiry concludes that enforcement measures under Australian competition laws are insufficient to address opposition issues within the sector.

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