Google faces £13 billion legal claim over advertising tech

5 June 2024, 17:44

The Google logo reflected in a pair of glasses next to a keyboard
Internet use study. Picture: PA

The Competition Appeal Tribunal has ruled a legal claim that the firm has too much power in the sector can go to trial.

A multibillion-pound claim against Google over allegations that it has behaved anti-competitively in the advertising tech space can proceed to trial, the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal has ruled.

The £13.6 billion claim, brought by a group called Ad Tech Collective Action LLP, alleges that Google has abused its dominant position in the digital advertising space, causing significant losses to UK online publishers.

In its attempts to get the legal action dropped, Google called the case “incoherent”, but the Competition Appeal Tribunal has now ruled that it can go to trial.

The case centres around advertising technology, or ad tech, the system that decides which online adverts people see and how much they cost – a major source of revenue for many websites and a vital, valuable sector for Google because its search engine is the most widely used and it offers a number of services in the ad tech space.

At the heart of the Ad Tech Collective Action argument is the claim that Google has abused its position in the market by promoting its own products and services over those of its rivals.

It argues that the activity has meant publishers have received less money from ads they host, as well as paying higher fees to Google.

Claudio Pollack, a partner of Ad Tech Collective Action, said: “This is a decision of major importance to the victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in ad tech. Google will now have to answer for its practices in a full trial.

“I look forward to working with our legal and economic advisers to deliver compensation for years during which the relevant markets did not provide a competitive outcome for the UK publishing market.”

No court date has yet been set for the trial.

Oliver Bethell, legal director at Google, said: “Google works constructively with publishers across the UK and Europe – our advertising tools, and those of our many ad tech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers.

“These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers.

“This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic. We’ll oppose it vigorously and on the facts.”

The legal action comes as Google is under scrutiny from regulators in the UK, US and Europe around its actions in the ad tech sector.

By Press Association

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