The European Commission and the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have launched an antitrust investigation into the advertising deal between Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) codenamed “Jedi Blue”. In particular, organizations are looking at whether the tech giants have agreed to impede competition “in the online advertising display markets”. The US Department of Justice, backed by several states, is also investigating the agreement between the two companies.As the commission explains, Google provides an advertising technology service that auctions online display advertising spaces on websites and apps as part of its Open Bidding program.
Meanwhile, Meta’s Audience Network participates in this type of auction for advertising space facilitated by Google and competing services. CMA’s CEO, Andrea Coscelli, said the organization was “concerned that Google has partnered with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors that provide important online display advertising services to publishers.“Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, told the Financial Times that the committee suspects there may have been an agreement between companies to “use only Google services and not competing services”.
However, Vestager also told the publication that the commission was looking into the possibility that Meta had not been aware of the deal’s repercussions and that Google had acted alone. “We have not yet concluded whether this is a case of Google alone or whether they were there together. It is not clear that Meta was aware of the effects of the agreement and that is what we need to investigate”, said the Commissioner.In addition to launching an investigation into the Jedi Blue deal, the CMA is also examining Google’s overall conduct in advertising auctions.
The watchdog is investigating whether the tech giant abused its dominant position to gain an advantage over its competitors offering auction services.Google previously denied colluding with Meta in a legal case, and a spokesperson echoed this in a statement sent to Engadget:“The allegations made about this agreement are false. This is a publicly documented pro-competitive agreement that allows Facebook Audience Network (FAN) to participate in our Open Bidding program, along with dozens of other companies. FAN’s involvement is not exclusive and they do not. and receive benefits that help them win bids. The goal of this program is to work with a range of advertising and exchange networks to increase publishers’ demand for advertising space, which helps these publishers earn more revenue. Facebook’s participation contributes to this. We are happy to answer all questions from the Commission or the CMA.“A Meta spokesperson also told us that the agreement with Google is not exclusive:
“Meta’s non-exclusive auction agreement with Google and similar agreements we have with other auction platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements. These business relationships allow Meta to offer more value to advertisers and publishers, resulting in better results for all. We will cooperate with both investigations.“If the CMA finds that the firms have violated competition law, they could be fined up to 10% of their global revenue. As the Financial Times notes, however, the process could take years.