Three online advertisers are suing Google for allegedly violating antitrust laws by monopolizing "digital advertising markets."
“Google leveraged its stranglehold on online search and search advertising to gain an illegal monopoly in brokering display advertising on other companies’ websites,” the marketers allege in a class-action complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The case was filed on behalf of Washington, D.C. tour company Grand Atlas Tours, Delray Beach, Florida-based Prana Pets (which sells herbs for dogs and cats) and the San Francisco law firm Hanson Law.
They claim Google “achieved this market dominance in part by acquiring rivals in the online advertising space, conditioning access to its search-results data and YouTube video advertising platform upon the purchase of its separate display advertising services, and ensuring those systems were not compatible with those of its competitors in online advertising."
The complaint comes as the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of state attorneys general are reportedly preparing separate antitrust lawsuits against Google.
Grand Atlas Tours and the others allege that Google's “pervasive monopoly conduct” has resulted in higher prices for advertisers and consumers, lower payments to online publishers and diminished competition in the online ad marketplace.
The complaint alleges both that Google commands a dominant position in search advertising, and that the company has leveraged its market power in search “to drive out competition in the separate market for display advertising services.”
Among other allegations, the marketers claim Google's decision to eventually block third-party cookies in Chrome will make it “much harder for advertisers and competitors to efficiently bid on ads.”
Google said in January it plans to phase out Chrome's support for third-party cookies within two years -- a move often seen as privacy friendly, because it can prevent companies that have no relationship with consumers from tracking them. Mozilla's Firefox, as well as Apple's Safari, already automatically prevent ad-tech companies from using cookies to track people around the web in order to serve them targeted ads.