Canada’s Competition Bureau says that a federal court granted an order on Friday forcing Google to produce records for a newly revealed investigation into the search giant’s advertising business, including YouTube’s ad system.
Google is the world’s biggest digital advertising company by revenue, and brought in US$147-billion from ads last year. The Competition Bureau said that it’s studying the company’s advertising practices to see if they drive up ad prices, reduce choice or prevent other ad-tech services from innovating.
In a statement Friday afternoon, the bureau said that there is no conclusion of any wrongdoing and that its investigation into the Alphabet Inc. subsidiary is continuing.
In a separate investigation that concluded in 2016, the antitrust watchdog found that Google had used anti-competitive clauses in the terms and conditions of a piece of its AdWords program, which the company agreed to remove. Though that investigation was broad, and extended to Google’s search capabilities, it did not find any other evidence of anti-competitive practices.
In an e-mail, a Competition Bureau spokesperson said the display-advertising investigation includes a focus on YouTube’s ad inventory and the market for media-buying services.
The court order will force Google to provide information about Google Canada’s organizational structure, the markets in which Google operates, and the company’s decision to restrict third-party services from brokering YouTube ads. The European Union is also investigating that part of Google’s ad business.
Antitrust enforcers around the world have increased their scrutiny of Big Tech’s dominance in recent years, particularly as companies such as Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. have reaped historic revenues to become some of the world’s biggest companies.
Google and Alphabet have faced billions of dollars in fines and numerous lawsuits from the EU, the U.S. Department of Justice and dozens of U.S. states over allegations of anti-competitive practices in various business lines, including advertising.
In an e-mailed statement, Google spokesperson Molly Morgan said that Google’s thousands of customers in Canada use its ad products “because they’re competitive and effective,” but that the company will work with the Competition Bureau “to answer their questions and demonstrate the benefits of our products to Canadian businesses and consumers.”
The Competition Bureau declined to make Commissioner Matthew Boswell available for an interview, citing a legal requirement for the bureau to conduct its investigations in private.
Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based internet publication, first revealed the bureau’s investigation last week before the court order was issued.
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