Google Advertising Deals Under Investigation, Again

Dennis Faas's picture

Google is yet again under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This time the probe, which is still at a very early stage, involves the firm's advertising practices.

The investigation hasn't been officially announced, but sources have told both Reuters and Bloomberg that it is under way. (Source:

This investigation centers on Google's advertising network. Specifically, the focus is on the way it accepts advertisements and then places ads on websites that sell space. Google offers its index of web content to find the site where the ad is most likely to generate interest.

Although full details of the investigation are firmly under wraps, it appears the FTC is interested in some tools which Google took over when it bought out another display advertising firm, Doubleclick, six years ago.

Probe Centers On Alleged Unfair Bundling

According to the sources, other firms involved in bringing advertisers and websites together have complained about Google's behavior.

The suggestion is that Google may be abusing its strong market position and effectively forcing firms to take multiple advertising services together as a package rather than choosing them individually.

At the time of the Doubleclick takeover, the FTC said that there was a risk Google would act anti-competitively. It noted then that "We will closely watch these markets and, should Google engage in unlawful tying or other anticompetitive conduct, the commission intends to act quickly." (Source:

Google Escapes Penalty, So Far

The investigation follows the recent conclusion of an FTC probe into claims Google was engaged in several anti-competitive practices, most notably giving unfair bias to websites it owned when deciding the order pages appear in search engine results.

That investigation ended with Google agreeing to make some relatively minor changes. The firm did not face any financial penalty, however.

In contrast, a European Union investigation resulted in Google agreeing to make more substantial changes. That agreement is awaiting final approval and has attracted criticism from some rival firms.

In both the U.S. and European investigations, Google has made no formal admission of breaking any laws.

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