UK publishers sue Google for $4.2 billion in lost ad revenue

Lawsuit alleges Google gave preferential treatment to its own ad tech products, which resulted in reduced display ad revenues for publishers.

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A new lawsuit alleges that Google abused its dominance in display advertising since 2014 and seeks £3.4 billion ($4.2 billion) in damages for all UK publishers.

The bigger picture. Google is facing similar scrutiny in the U.S. The Department of Justice and eight states sued Google in an effort to dismantle its ads division. Google had hoped to avoid that by offering to restructure its ad tech business. And due to EU scrutiny, Google offered to show ad rivals on YouTube.

Why we care. The outcomes of ongoing lawsuits and antitrust investigations could eventually result in meaningful changes for online advertisers, impacting publishers (ad revenue) and advertisers (reach). So we will continue to watch as these developments unfold.

The lawsuit. It was filed by journalist Charles Arthur, a former technology editor for UK news publisher The Guardian on behalf of all UK publishers of websites and apps in the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). At issue:

Charles claims that Google has breached competition law by abusing its dominant position in online advertising through Google, for example, giving preferential treatment to its own ad tech products (e.g. Google Ad Manager). As a result, market-wide prices for all ad tech services were increased and businesses and individuals who sold ad impressions on websites and apps using these services received less compensation than they would have absent Google’s breaches of competition law.

FAQ, Google Ad Claim.

Google’s response. The company called the lawsuit “speculative and opportunistic,” adding that “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,” the BBC reported.

The second such lawsuit. Ofcom director Claudio Pollack filed a similar lawsuit, seeking up to £13.6bn in damages, in November 2022.

Opt-out. Because both of these lawsuits are collective claims (the equivalent of a U.S. class action lawsuit), “both legal claims ask the court – the Competition Appeal Tribunal – to certify their claims as “opt-out”, meaning every relevant publisher would be automatically included in the case unless they choose otherwise,” according to the BBC.

About the author

Danny Goodwin
Danny Goodwin is Editorial Director of Search Engine Land & Search Marketing Expo - SMX. He joined Search Engine Land in 2022 as Senior Editor. In addition to reporting on the latest search marketing news, he manages Search Engine Land’s SME (Subject Matter Expert) program. He also helps program U.S. SMX events.

Goodwin has been editing and writing about the latest developments and trends in search and digital marketing since 2007. He previously was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal (from 2017 to 2022), managing editor of Momentology (from 2014-2016) and editor of Search Engine Watch (from 2007 to 2014). He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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