December 02, 2019

Google sued by Adtech firm over alleged anticompetitive practices

[ by Kavita Krishnan ]


An online advertising firm in the United States – Inform Inc. has filed an antitrust lawsuit against search engine giant Google claiming it has been “effectively put out of business” as a direct result of Google’s alleged anticompetitive practices.

The Atlanta-based business – Inform, which was acquired by Bright Mountain Media earlier this year, claims that it was generating revenues from online advertising in excess of US$100 million between 2014 and 2016. However the law suit claims that “Inform has since been put out of business as a result of the illegal conduct described therein.” The suit further claims that “Google’s pattern of anticompetitive practices has thwarted competition on the merits and excluded Inform and other Google competitors from the relevant markets. The result has been to eviscerate competition in multiple markets, harm consumers, degrade consumer choice and consumer privacy, and stifle innovation.”

According to the lawsuit, action against Google was brought under the Sherman Antitrust Act, Clayton Antitrust Act and the Georgia’s common law tort of tortious interference to restrain the anticompetitive conduct and to protect free market competition from continued unlawful manipulation.

The lawsuit further accuses Google of engaging in “blatant and rampant coercive and anticompetitive activities”. These accusations include inter alia–

  • coercing consumers to use its own products and services;
  • illegally undermining competitive products and services;
  • entering into exclusionary agreements that preclude companies from advertising, distributing, promoting, buying, or using products of competitors or potential competitors to Google’s applications;
  • entering into exclusionary agreements that restrict the right of companies to provide services or resources to competitors or potential competitors to Google’s advertising services and products;
  • tortiously interfering with competitors’ contracts and business relationships;
  • maliciously and artificially imposing restrictions on how ads can be supported and accepted for display, while exempting or white-listing its own platforms from these rules;
  • improperly influencing and infiltrating governmental agencies,
  • including the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) to further Google’s interests.

According to the lawsuit, in September 2014 Google began offering Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tools for the Google Display Network17 and DoubleClick Campaign Manager that would create a backup HTML5 video advertisement to run when Flash was disabled or otherwise not supported.

European lawmakers fined Google for the third time over antitrust breaches earlier this year. The €1.49 billion (US$1.7 billion) was issued by the European Commission over “abusive practices” in Google’s AdSense for Search platform, which included blocking rivals Microsoft and Yahoo from selling ads in Google search results pages.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Offfice is investigating Google for alleged infractions of GDPR. The search giant was fined EUR€50 million in January by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) for issues relating to data processing.

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