European Google Antitrust Questionnaire Revealed

Last week we reported on two extensive questionnaires being used by the European Commission to gather factual information as part of its antitrust inquiry against Google. Agencies, advertisers, ad networks and publishers are being solicited for their input through these documents.

We obtained a copy of what appears to be the shorter questionnaire. In it respondents are requested to submit two versions of their responses: confidential and non-confidential. The latter “excludes business secrets or other confidential information.”

The document in its preamble lays out the scope of the EC investigation:

  1. The Commission is currently investigating allegations that Google has breached Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. The investigation aims at assessing whether Google abused of a dominant position in online search and/or online search advertising and/or online search advertising intermediation markets.
  2. The Commission is in particular investigating allegations relating to (i) the demotion of competing online vertical search services in Google’s natural search ranking and the preferential treatment of Google’s own online vertical search services, (ii) the demotion of the Quality Score of advertisers using Google’s AdWords platform, (iii) the imposition of exclusivity obligations on publishers participating in Google’s AdSense programme and/or on Google’s distribution partners, and (iv) the imposition of restrictions on the storage and use of advertisers’ AdWords campaign data with regard to competing online advertising platforms.

Again here are four main questions and areas of inquiry against Google:

  1. The demotion of competing online vertical search services in Google’s natural search ranking and the preferential treatment of Google’s own online vertical search services
  2. The demotion of the Quality Score of advertisers using Google’s AdWords platform
  3. The imposition of exclusivity obligations on publishers participating in Google’s AdSense programme and/or on Google’s distribution partners
  4. The imposition of restrictions on the storage and use of advertisers’ AdWords campaign data with regard to competing online advertising platforms

Here are the actual questions:

1. Please provide a short description of your undertaking and describe in particular the online advertising intermediationservices (Le.matching the advertisers’ demand to find advertising space with the publishers’ offer to sell ad space) you offer to (i) advertisers and/or (ii) publishers. Please also identify for each of your services the European Economic Area (“EEA”)countries in which you operate andwhen you started operating there.

2. Please give an overview of your business model. Please describe in particular how you monetize your online intermediations services(e.g. auctions, fixed fee).

3. As a media agency, it can be argue that you provide intermediation services. Would you consider that these services are in/any way comparable and competing with the services

4. Please indicate the gross revenues (including traffic acquisition costs, “TAC”) and the net revenues (excluding TAC) generated by the online advertisements (“ads”) placed on your ad network/exchange or by your media agency during the last six years (i.e. 2005-2010) (i) within the EEA and (ii) per EEA country you are active in and (iii) provide an estimate of your corresponding market share(s). To this end, please use a table like the one below, expanding it accordingly:

5. Please indicate the number of online ads bought on your platform or sold through your media agency on an annual basis during the last six years (i.e. 2005-2010) (i) within the EEA-wide and (ii) per EEA country you are active in. To this end, please use a table as the following,expanding it accordingly:

– TABLE SIMILAR TO ONE ABOVE –

6. If available,please provide the percentage of reach of your advertising business in terms of unique internet users. Please provide average data for the last six years (i.e. 2005-2010) and supporting documents(e.g. studies),. if any.

7. Please explain with regard to your online advertising intermediation activities:

a) for which kinds of ads you offer intermediation services (i.e. search ads and/or non-search ads; which types of non-search ads (i.e. contextual text ads, contextual display ads and/or non-contextual display ads); other);

b) in case you offer online intennediation services for different kinds of ads, please indicate the percentage share of each category in the total amount of ads you intennediated during the last six years (i.e. 2005-2010; and

c) in case you do not offer all types of ads, please explain the reasons for this choice. In terms of geographic scope of your online advertising intennediation activities, please explain:

8. In terms of geographic scope of your online advertising intermediation activities, please explain:

a) whether your business is physically present in each EEA country you are active in (through subsidiaries, agents, etc) or whether you have centralised these activities for certain regions/theEEA;

b) the reasons for this choice and whether you consider local presence to be necessary in order to maintain business relationships with advertisers and/or publishers;

c) the importance of country and language specificities in relation to online advertising

9. In case you place search ads, are you placing or have you ever considered to place ads on the websites of vertical search service providers (please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical_search for the definition)? Please reason your reply.

9.1 Do you consider an ad on a website of a vertical search service provider to fulfill the same purpose as an ad on the website of a horizontal search engine (i.e. search engines not specialized on specific online content)? Please reason your reply. Should this differ according to the topic of the ad in question,please specify.

9.2 Have you ever decided/proposed to your customers to switch any advertising campaign from a horizontal search engine to a vertical search engine or vice versa? Please reason your reply. If yes, please also describe the situations in which this was the case.

9.3 Please explain whether you would substituteall or part of the ads you place on horizontal search engines by ads on websites of vertical search service providers if the price of the ads you are currently placing on horizontal search engines increased by 5%-10%’(as a result of the pricing mechanism in place without any difference in the conversion rates), whereas the price of ads on websites of vertical search service providers remained stable. Should you consider other factors than price to be relevant to this decision, please specify which and reason your reply.

10. Have you been confronted with new companies entering the segment of online advertising intemediation services you provide during the last two years? If yes, please list these companies and comment on the current relevance of such companies.

11. Please provide a list of companies you consider to have been your competitors for the online advertising intermediation services you provide during the last two years. Please also give your best estimate of the current relevance of such companies.

12. Please provide a list with the contact details of your current 20 largest publishing partners within the EEA. In addition, please specify (i) the percentage of the total gross advertising revenue you generated with each of these partners during the last six years (Le. 2005-2010) on an annual basis and (ii) the revenue split (TAC) you have agreed with each partner.

13. Do you enter into standard agreements with your publishing partners? If yes, please provide a copy of your standard agreement. If not, please briefly describe how you negotiate the terms of your agreements with your publishing partners.

13.1 Please describe the main features Of your agreements with your publishing partners .(e.g. services covered, average duration and price structure).

13.2 Do your agreements with publishers contain clauses preventing or limiting them from displaying ads from competing intermediaries on any of their web pages? If yes, please

a) identify the relevant clause(s) and explain its/their content; b) explain the reasons for which you consider the respective clause(s) to be necessary (e.g. necessary for specific investments,etc.); and c) explain which party is typically requestingsuch clause(s).

13.3 Do you consider the use of the clauses referred to in Question 13.2 above to be a widespread and common business practice for online advertising intermediation services?

14. Please explain whether any of your publishing partners ever terminated his agreement with your company or limited its scope due to placement requirements and/or restrictions for certain types of ads contained in agreements with competing online advertising intermediaries (in particular Google). If yes, please provide (i) the contact details of the respective partner and (ii) if any, supporting documents whatever their form (e.g. e-mails, faxes, letters, notes taken during telephone calls or meetings, etc.) on the related discussions between this partner and your company on this issue.

15. Please explain whether any such placement requirements and/or restrictions agreed on with competing online advertising intermediaries (in particular Google) were discussed between you and (potential) publishing partners during your contract negotiations. If yes, please

a) specify the placement requirements and/or restrictions discussed; b) explain the impact that these placement requirements and/or restrictions have on your ability to provide online advertising services to publishers; c) explain the impact that these placement requirements and/or restrictions had on the outcome of your contract negotiations with publishers (e.g. no contract concluded, contractual limitations implemented,etc); and d) provide the contact details of the respective publishing partner and, if any, supporting documents whatever their form (~:g. e-mails, faxes, letters, notes taken during telephone calls or meetings, etc.) on the related discussions between this partner and your company on this issue

16. If not already covered by your reply to Question 15 above, please explain to what extent contractual requirements in your publishing partners’ agreements with Google limit your ability to place ads on their web page(s). Where appropriate, please provide screenshots of which type and/or number of ads you are able to place on their web page(s) and of what is not allowed.

17. In case you are in direct competition with Google, did you ever manage to gain publishing partners at the expense of Google? If yes, please provide the name and the contact details of these publishers and explain in your view the main reasons for which they switched and how you managed to attract them.

18. Please provide a list with the contact details of your current 20 largest advertising customers within the EEA. In addition, please specify the percentage of the total gross advertising revenue you generated with each of these customers during the last six years (Le. 2005-2010) on an annual basis.

19. Do you enter into standard agreements with your advertising customers? If yes, please provide a copy of your standard agreement. If not, please briefly describe how you negotiate the terms of your agreements with your advertising customers.

19.1 Please describe the main features of your agreements with your advertising customers (e.g. services covered, average duration and price structure).

20. In case you place search ads, please describe the format in which such ads can be designed. Should there be different formats, please explain the differences between each of them and, if possible, provide screenshots that illustrate the differences.

21. In case you place context targeted text ads, please describe the format in which such ads can be designed. Should there be different formats, please explain the differences between each of them and, if possible, provide screenshots that illustrate the differences.

Related posts:

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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