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Media companies file $2.3 billion lawsuit against Google over advertising practices

Google's Search product is displayed on a tablet computer.
Google’s Search product is displayed on a tablet computer. (Stock image via Pexels, Graphic by The Desk)

Nearly three dozen European media companies have joined forces to take Google to court on allegations that the search giant engaged in anticompetitive practices related to its digital advertising businesses.

The lawsuit filed on Wednesday seeks at least €2.1 billion (around U.S. $2.3 billion) in damages from Google, who the companies accuse of abusing its market dominance in Europe and elsewhere to inhibit their ability to generate revenue from digital advertising.

The companies include Axel Springer, a German company that operates several well-known publications like Bild, Politico and Business Insider. Norwegian company Schibsted is also listed as a plaintiff on the case.

Attorneys representing the media organizations say their clients have “incurred losses due to a less-competitive market, which is a direct result of Google’s misconduct.”

“Without Google’s abuse of its dominant position, the media companies would have received significantly higher revenues from advertising and paid lower fees for ad tech services,” the lawyers said, claiming that the money lost from Google’s alleged malfeasance could have been reinvested by the media companies to strengthen the news landscape in Europe.

The lawsuit references a $240 million fine imposed by French regulator against Google over its digital advertising practices nearly three years ago, as well as various claims made by the European Commission last year that were similar in nature.

Google previously said it disagreed with the charges brought by the European Commission, and restated its innocence this week in the face of the lawsuit brought by the news organizations.

“This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic,” Oliver Bethell, Google’s legal director, said in a statement. “We’ll oppose it vigorously and on the facts.”

Bethell went on to say that Google “works constructively with publishers across Europe — our advertising tools, and those of our many adtech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers.”

“These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers,” Bethell affirmed.

The lawsuit comes about a year after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google over its digital advertising practices. That lawsuit claims Google abused its market dominance in the space for more than a decade, essentially forcing digital publishers to use its products over competing ones.

“Today’s complaint alleges that Google has used anticompetitive, exclusionary, and unlawful conduct to eliminate or severely diminish any threat to its dominance over digital advertising technologies,” Merrick Garland, the U.S. Attorney General, said in a statement at the time. “No matter the industry and no matter the company, the Justice Department will vigorously enforce our antitrust laws to protect consumers, safeguard competition, and ensure economic fairness and opportunity for all.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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