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ACCC calls for curbs on Google’s ad tech dominance

The regulator’s report, released on Tuesday, recommends legislation be implemented to address conflicts of interest, prevent anti-competitive self-preferencing, and ensure rival ad tech providers are able to compete on merit.

Google has been able to entrench its position in ad tech through key acquisitions such as video sharing site YouTube in 2006, ad technology platform DoubleClick in 2007, and mobile advertising company AdMob in 2009. Meanwhile, its access to a large volume of user data gathered through services such as search, maps and YouTube gives it an additional advantage, the ACCC said, adding the company does not disclose the extent to which it exploits that information.

The tech giant has criticised the inquiry for focusing on a narrow part of the ad tech market by only analysing open display ad practices. The ACCC estimates $2.8 billion was spent on open display advertising in Australia last year, around 42 per cent of total display and 30 per cent of total digital advertising spend for the year.

In the US, Google has been hit with a lawsuit for allegedly using anti-competitive tactics to shut out display ad competitors in ways such as encouraging consumers to bid through Google directly.

The federal government said it would carefully consider the “findings and recommendations” delivered by the ACCC.

“Digital platforms have fundamentally changed the way that media content is produced, distributed and consumed,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. “It is therefore important that our regulatory frameworks keep pace with the changes being driven by digital platforms.”

Meanwhile, Google said its technology services were delivering benefits for Australian businesses and consumers, adding that its advertising business had “supported over 15,000 Australian jobs and contributed $2.45 billion to Australia’s economy annually”.

“As one of the many advertising technology providers in Australia, we will continue to work collaboratively with industry and regulators to support a healthy ads ecosystem,” a Google spokesman said.

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