EU, UK open antitrust probes into Google, Meta ad-services agreement

The European Commission and the U.K.’s antitrust authority launched parallel probes into an agreement between Google and Facebook owner Meta for online display advertising services.

“Via the so-called ‘Jedi Blue’ agreement between Google and Meta, a competing technology to Google’s Open Bidding may have been targeted with the aim to weaken it and exclude it from the market for displaying ads on publisher websites and apps,” EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

“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,” she said.

Under the deal, reached in September 2018, the companies agreed that Meta’s Audience Network would participate in Google’s Open Bidding program.

Brussels fears that the agreement could harm publishers and consumers, as it could be part of efforts to exclude ad tech services competing with Google’s Open Bidding programme. This would affect competition in the market of online display advertising.

The Commission said that it will now conduct its in-depth probe “as a matter of priority” in cooperation with the U.K. competition authority’s investigation.

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