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Google Faces $2.3bn European Lawsuit for Digital Ad Damages

Last Updated February 29, 2024 5:35 PM
James Morales
Last Updated February 29, 2024 5:35 PM
Key Takeaways
  • A coalition of European publishers has filed a lawsuit against Google concerning its AdTech business, which EU authorities found to be in breach of antitrust laws.
  • The group of media organizations is suing for $2.3 billion in damages.
  • Google also faces similar cases in the US and the UK.

Over the years, Google’s dominance in the online advertising market has often spurred accusations of uncompetitive business practices. For example, a critical moment occurred in 2019, when the European Commission fined  the company 1.49 billion euros for abusing its dominant position in the market for digital advertisement technology (AdTech).

Alongside subsequent edicts from national competition watchdogs in the EU, the Commission’s decision paved the way for Google to be sued by affected website operators and rival AdTech firms. Leading the charge, on Wednesday, February 28, a coalition of European publishers slapped the firm with a lawsuit alleging damages of 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion).

EU Antitrust Authorities Slam Google’s AdTech Abuse

In the EU, accusations that Google abused its market dominance center on the firm’s role as an intermediary, matching publishers with advertisers and taking a cut of the money that flows between them.

Various EU watchdogs have objected to different components of Google’s AdTech stack. For example, the EC probe took issue with AdSense for Search. Meanwhile, the French competition authority found  that AdX breached antitrust laws.

Citing the French regulator’s findings, the latest lawsuit  argues that “Google’s conduct inflicted considerable harm on website owners,” who were deprived of the change to benefit from undistorted competition between AdTech providers.

Publishers Join Forces in Latest Lawsuit

The complainants that have come together to sue Google are among some of Europe’s largest digital media outlets, including Axel Springer and Schibsted. 

Although it is now too late for other publishers to join the claim, the law firm Geradin Partners said it is exploring a second collective claim in the Dutch courts, for which it has already secured funding.

Parties to the latest lawsuit chose Geradin Partners. to represent them. Having previously represented the complainants in the French investigation and the European Publishers Council in its complaint to the European Commission, the firm has a strong track record of bringing antitrust cases against Google.

Google’s Antitrust Headache – Not Just an EU Issue

On top of its challenges in the EU, Google faces lawsuits in the UK and US relating to the same AdTech practices.

In the UK, a class action lawsuit  could see Google liable to pay as much as £13.6 billion ($17.2 billion) in compensation. Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s suit  could also result in a hefty fine for the company.

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