What just happened? Google is no stranger to antitrust lawsuits, so it should come as little surprise to learn that the company is once again being sued for allegedly abusing its dominant position. This time, a suit filed in the UK and EU accuses Google of anticompetitive behavior in the digital advertising market and is seeking compensation that could add up to 25 billion euros, or 25.43 billion dollars.
The European Commission opened an investigation into Google’s digital advertising business in June last year. As reported by Reuters, the EU regulators recently expanded their scope of the case by taking over the Portuguese competition watchdog’s probe into the same issue. There was also a €220 million fine imposed on Google last year by the French competition watchdog for abusing its market power in the online advertising industry.
Now, Google is facing a lawsuit filed in British and Dutch courts that seeks to recover advertising revenue lost due to the company’s allegedly anticompetitive behavior over a period of several years. The total amount of compensation could reach up to $25 billion.
“Publishers, including local and national news media who play a vital role in our society, have long been harmed by Google’s anticompetitive conduct,” said Damien Geradin of the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners, via The Guardian.
Toby Starr, a partner at Humphries Kerstetter, the UK law firm planning to bring the case to the competition appeal tribunal, emphasized that it wouldn’t just benefit news sites. “This important claim will represent a class of victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in ad tech who have collectively lost an estimated £7bn. This includes news websites up and down the country with large daily readerships as well as the thousands of small business owners who depend on advertising revenue – be it from their fishing website, food blog, football fanzine or other online content they have spent time creating and publishing.”
It’s noted that the UK suit is opt-out, so anyone affected will automatically be part of the claim unless they say otherwise. The Netherlands case is opt-in, so people will need to join the suit themselves. It’s expected that many thousands of parties in the UK alone will be part of the claim.
Google responded to the lawsuit by calling it “speculative and opportunistic,” adding that it intends to fight the case vigorously.
With a market cap of over $1 trillion, Google (or more specifically, its parent Alphabet) is a dominant force in the online space. Its position of power has seen the company deal with and continue to face multiple lawsuits and watchdog investigations from within the EU and elsewhere over claims of monopolistic practices.