Antitrust regulators in the EU and UK are looking into “Jedi Blue,” a contract between Google and Meta that critics believe prevented smaller tech businesses from entering the online ad industry.
the September 2018 arrangement “may be part of efforts to exclude ad tech businesses competing with Google’s Open Bidding programme, so restricting or distorting competition in marketplaces for online display advertising.” So it’s launching an antitrust probe.
“We’re concerned that Google may have linked up with Meta to put impediments in the way of competitors that supply essential online display advertising services to publishers,” said CMA chairman Andrea Coscelli.
EXISTING US INVESTIGATIONS OF JEDI BLUE
15 state attorneys general have filed lawsuits against the two firms over the Jedi Blue agreement. Because of this, information concerning the deal and the prosecutors’ allegations has been slow to emerge. According to court documents, Google and Meta leaders including Sundar Pichai, Sheryl Sandberg, and Mark Zuckerberg evaluated and authorised Jedi Blue.
In 2017, Meta (then Facebook) decided to support an adtech system to compete Google’s. According to US lawsuits, Meta abandoned the technology in 2018 when Google granted it preferred access to its online ad bidding system. As part of the transaction, Meta gained first dibs on Google ad space and stopped investing in competitors.
Despite the convoluted history, US authorities claim the two corporations collaborated to save money and keep competitors at bay.
No one knows if it was a Google-only thing or if they were in it together.
While regulators are looking into both Meta and Google, the European Commission believes only Google is to blame. “We haven’t decided yet if it’s a Google issue or if they were in it together,” said EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. We need to determine whether Meta was aware of the deal’s consequences.
Meta and Google told Reuters the EU and UK probes were flawed.
“The allegations made concerning this arrangement are false,” Google added. This is a transparent, pro-competitive arrangement that allows Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to join dozens of other organisations in our Open Bidding programme.”
“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding deal with Google, and similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped enhance competition for ad placements,” Facebook added.
For any EU competition law violation, Meta or Google might be penalised up to 10% of their global annual turnover. The probe is likely to take years to complete, giving both corporations enough opportunity to challenge any findings.