Google is being sued by digital media advertising company Inform for its anti-competitive practices, that has allegedly thwarted competition on the merits and excluded Inform and other Google competitors from the relevant markets. According to a lawsuit document seen by Marketing, the result of Google’s “unlawful conduct” has “eviscerated competition” in multiple markets, harmed consumers, degraded consumer choice and consumer privacy, and stifled innovation.
Inform, for over a decade, directly competed with Google in the online advertising market, specifically online video advertising. The company provides a platform of services to online publishers, content creators, and online advertisers. While Inform had revenues in excess of US$100 million for its online advertising services between 2014 and 2016, Google was accused by the company of putting Inform out of business as a direct result of “its illegal conduct” of anti-competitive practices.
Inform claimed in the document that users of the Google search engine do not pay a monetary fee, rather Google monetises users’ personal data to drive online advertising revenue. “For many years, Google’s goal has been to monopolise the online advertising market by amassing and controlling Internet user data; controlling the devices and tools with which users access the Internet; and ultimately controlling the advertising content that is served and consumed by Internet users,” the Inform team said.
This is not the first time Google’s monopolistic behaviour has been challenged. The court document also said since 2010, from the French regulators to the European Commission have conducted investigations into whether Google abused a dominant market position in online search by allegedly lowering or downgrading the search results of competing services and by giving preferential placement to the results of its own vertical search services in order to shut out competing services.
In this year itself, Google faced a host of antitrust investigations by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The European Commission fined Google US$1.7 billion in March 2019 for abusive antitrust online advertising activities, while the FTC imposed a fine up to US$200 million on Google for violating child privacy laws.