Google ads to cost for us all
Dominance misused
INTERNET giant Google is misusing its dominance of digital advertising in ways that cause “likely harms” to advertisers, publishers and “ultimately consumers” by forcing up prices for all three groups, according to Australia’s competition watchdog.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s final report into Digital Advertising Services, released on Tuesday, found Google had its hand in “more than 90 per cent of ad impressions” on the internet and dominated “a nearly $3bn market”.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Google’s monopoly was ultimately inflating the price of goods for consumers at the end of transactions, as well as sending more business its own way to reduce competition.

“Google is absolutely dominating this market,” Mr Sims said.

“The other players are minnows compared to Google, and Google has done a range of things to create its dominance and help entrench its dominance.

“Not only did they buy some of the major players in ad tech, but they preference their own parts of the business system to help other parts.”

Mr Sims said Google’s digital advertising monopoly meant the tech giant could often act on behalf of the ad buyer, the ad seller, and operate the ad exchange in a single transaction, creating a “conflict of interest” and cutting out competitors.

The watchdog also found it was “not clear” how the internet company used information it harvested from consumers through its services, including Google Search, Maps and YouTube, to create targeted advertisements, and called for the company to publicly outline how it used this information.

But despite the inquiry’s damning findings, it could be difficult to change Google’s actions using Australia’s current competition laws.

Mr Sims said the ACCC had “identified systemic competition concerns relating to conduct” by Google but warned lawsuits under current laws ”could take three or four years” and may only result “in a big fine” rather than a change in the way it does business.

The ACCC stopped short of drawing up new rules for online advertising, but Mr Sims said the watchdog would propose guidelines as part of a larger digital platforms reform report in 2022.

In response to the report, a spokesman for Google Australia said the company would review its findings and “continue to work collaboratively with industry and regulators to support a healthy ads ecosystem”.

The ACCC’s digital advertising report followed its groundbreaking, 18-month inquiry into Digital Platforms, which resulted in the introduction of a News Media Bargaining Code earlier this year.