Google dominates Australia’s online advertising market to the point of harming publishers, advertisers and ultimately consumers, the country’s antitrust regulator said, calling for new rules to rein in the Big Tech giant.
A report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), published on Tuesday, said more than 90% of clicks on advertisements traded through the Australian “ad tech” supply chain passed through at least one service owned by the Alphabet Inc unit in 2020.
“Google has used its vertically integrated position to operate its ad tech services in a way that has, over time, led to a less competitive ad tech industry,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement, released alongside the report.
“This conduct has helped Google to establish and entrench its dominant position in the ad tech supply chain. We recommend rules be considered to manage conflicts of interest, prevent anti-competitive self-preferencing, and ensure rival ad tech providers can compete on their merits.”
A Google spokesman was not immediately available for comment. In a blog post published soon before the ACCC’s report, Google said its advertising technology supported more than 15,000 Australian jobs and contributed US$2.45 billion a year to the country’s economy annually.
The ACCC said the US company benefited from vast amounts of internet user data from its search engine, mapping and YouTube video streaming services, and must be more transparent about the way it uses this information to sell advertisements.
The regulator said it wanted special powers to address the imbalance of advertiser access to consumer data, such as rules forcing them to separate data between business units or share data with competitors.
The “ad tech” report was part of the ACCC’s wider examination of online platforms which earlier this year prompted Google to say it might withdraw core services from the country over laws forcing it to pay for media content that drives traffic to its website.
Google has since announced content payment deals with most of Australia’s largest media outlets, as did social media giant Facebook Inc which did cut news feeds in the country for a week in the days before the law was passed.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who commissioned the report, said in a statement the government would consider the report’s findings and recommendations.