February 4, 2023

Google, Meta face antitrust investigations of regulators in Europe and the United Kingdom

Google, Meta face antitrust investigations of regulators in Europe and the United Kingdom

The Facebook and Google app logos are displayed on a tablet.

Denise Sharlet | AFP via Getty Images

European Union and United Kingdom regulators have opened antitrust investigations into Google and deadformerly Facebook, during a 2018 ad deal for the tech giants.

A parallel investigation, announced Friday, will examine whether the alleged “Jedi Blue” agreement between the two companies has hindered market competition for display advertising services. Online display ads are graphic ads that appear on websites, mobile apps, and social media.

Andrea Coscielli, chief executive of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, said in a statement: “We are concerned that Google may have teamed up with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors who provide important online advertising services to publishers.”

“If a company controls a particular territory, it can make it difficult for startups and small businesses to break into the market – and may ultimately reduce customer choice,” he added.

The regulator said it wanted to determine whether the tech giants had restricted or blocked uptake of “master bidding services,” which enable news publishers to sell their online ad space to multiple buyers at the same time, rather than receiving bids individually.

A Meta spokesperson said: “Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms have helped increase competition for ad placements. These business relationships enable Meta to deliver more value to advertisers and publishers, resulting in better results. Best of all, we will cooperate with both inquiry.”

Google did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

This is an urgent story and will be updated soon.