Unifor demands update on Competition Bureau investigation of Google ad practices

The Competition Bureau says it would be inappropriate to speculate on when its investigation into Google’s online display advertising practices might be concluded, as Unifor pushes the bureau to follow the lead of the U.S. and European Union by pursuing legal action.

Unifor, which represents 12,000 journalists and media workers across television, newspapers, magazines, news websites and film production, wrote to Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell earlier this week questioning whether there has been any movement within the agency to release its findings. 

The investigation, which began in the fall of 2021, was to determine if Google is impeding the success of competitors, resulting in higher prices and reduced choice, hindering innovation for ad tech services, and harming advertisers, publishers and consumers. The order compelled Google to produce data relevant to the inquiry.

A spokesperson for the Competition Bureau could not confirm to Broadcast Dialogue whether the digital giant is cooperating, citing confidentiality.

“While the Bureau endeavours to complete its investigations as expeditiously as possible, we must conduct a thorough and complete examination of the facts before concluding whether the Competition Act has been contravened,” the bureau spokesperson told Broadcast Dialogue in an email. “As the steps the Bureau takes during an investigation depend on the facts of each case, it would be inappropriate to speculate as to when the Bureau might reach any conclusions. As the Bureau is required by law to conduct its investigations confidentially, we’re not able to provide any further details at this time.”

Google, Facebook and Amazon now account for 90% of internet ad spending in Canada, according to data provided by Unifor.

“Every day that Google is allowed to monopolize ad revenue, more harm is inflicted on the Canadian news industry, which has a negative impact on democracy as a whole,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne, in a release. 

“Since the time the inquiry began, Canada’s crisis in the news media sector, particularly in newspapers, has continued to worsen. Unifor’s membership has been impacted with hundreds of local news operations shuttering as a result of dropping ad revenue,” the union statement continued. “As online advertising growth continues to outpace all other segments, traditional media – such as broadcast TV, radio, newspapers and magazines – have been fighting over a dwindling pool of advertising revenue.”

Google facing U.S. antitrust suit

Unifor is urging the Competition Bureau to follow the lead of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed a civil antitrust suit against Google in January alleging it monopolizes the “ad tech stack” that website publishers depend on to sell ads and that advertisers rely on to buy ads and reach potential customers.

The U.S. complaint alleges that over the past 15 years, Google has engaged in a course of anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct, including neutralizing or eliminating ad tech competitors through acquisitions, wielding dominance across digital advertising markets to force more publishers and advertisers to use its products, and thwarting the ability to use competing products.

The American civil antitrust suit followed the upholding of a €4.125 billion euro fine against Google parent company Alphabet for anti-competitive business practices by the European Union’s General Court last September. That fine was reduced from the original amount imposed by the European Commission of almost €4.343 billion, the largest ever imposed by a competition authority in Europe.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessenhttps://broadcastdialogue.com
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email - corrections@broadcastdialogue.com

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