Google Hit With Italian Competition Probe As Search Giant’s Antitrust Challenges Grow

Google’s antitrust woes in Europe and around the world just got a little bigger.

Italian competition regulators are probing the Alphabet-owned search and tech giant amid allegations Google has abused its power atop the country’s display ad market, Reuters reported Wednesday (Oct. 28).

The investigation comes in the wake of a complaint last year by IAB, an Italian trade group that represents the country’s digital advertising sector, the news outlet reported.

A spokesman for Google in Italy told Reuters the company was cooperating with Italian authorities and that the practices in question may involve how the tech giant’s online ad tools work in relation to European Union privacy laws.

The Italian Competition Authority (ICA) said in a press statement that it had, on Tuesday, “conducted inspections at Google’s premises, with the collaboration of the Tax Police.”

The probe in Italy comes as Google also faces anti-trust investigations around the world on part of regulators in the U.S., the European Union, Japan, and China, with rumblings on part of political leaders in Canada as well.

“In the key market for online advertising, which Google controls also thanks to its dominant position on a large part of the digital value chain, the Authority questions the undertaking’s discriminatory use of the huge amount of data collected through its various applications, preventing rivals in the online advertising markets from competing effectively,” the Italian Competition Authority noted in its statement.

In particular, Italian competition regulators say Google “appears to have engaged in an internal/external discriminatory conduct.”

Google refused to provide competitors with Google ID decryption keys and excluded third-party tracking pixels, according to regulators at the ICA.

However, Google at the same time was using “tracking elements” that enabled its own ad services “to achieve a targeting capability that some equally efficient competitors are unable to replicate,” the regulator noted.