Google Faces £3.4bn UK Lawsuit Over Adtech Dominance

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Google faces second collective UK legal action over claims its dominance of market illegally reduced publishers’ revenues

Google has been targeted by a second major collective lawsuit in the UK over its advertising practices.

The £3.4 billion lawsuit, brought by former Guardian technology editor Charles Arthur, claims Google’s dominance of the adtech industry has illegally reduced publishers’ income from ad revenues.

Google said it would fight the “speculative and opportunistic” action.

The case follows another filed in November by former Ofcom director Claudio Pollack, who is seeking up to £13.6bn in damages over similar claims.

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is also investigating Google’s dominance in advertising technology.

But Arthur’s claim, filed last Thursday, says the CMA is not able to compensate publishers for lost revenues.

“The CMA is currently investigating Google’s anti-competitive conduct in adtech, but they don’t have the power to make Google compensate those who have lost out,” he wrote. “We can only right that wrong through the courts, which is why I am bringing this claim.”

He claims that because of Google’s dominance prices for adtech services were inflated and publishers’ ad sales revenues were reduced.

Collective claims, similar to US class actions, became possible in the UK only in 2015 and rose sixfold from 2021 to 2022 due to a legal change in 2021.

US antitrust claims

Both of the legal claims ask the Competition Appeal Tribunal to certify their claims as opt-out, meaning all relevant publishers would be included unless they specifically ask to be excluded.

Google told Silicon UK that it “works constructively” with publishers across the UK and Europe and that its 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. This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic. We’ll oppose it vigorously and on the facts,” the company said.

In January the US Justice Department and eight states filed a lawsuit against Google alleging the company has “thwarted meaningful competition and deterred innovation” in the adtech market, something Google denies.