Siding with Google, a federal judge has dismissed antitrust claims brought by advertisers that alleged the company unlawfully monopolized “programmatic display advertising services.”
The ruling, issued last week by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman, allows the advertisers to reformulate their allegations and bring the claims again.
The decision stemmed from an antitrust complaint initially filed last June by advertisers including Florida-based Prana Pets (which sells herbs for dogs and cats) and the San Francisco law firm Hanson Law.
Their claims centered on the theory that Google “leveraged its dominance in search,” along with data about users, in order to monopolize the brokering of display ads.
The advertisers, who said they purchased both search and display ads, claimed they paid “supra-competitive” prices for display ads, due to Google's alleged monopoly.
Google urged Freeman to dismiss the case for numerous reasons, including that it isn't the only company selling online display ads.
“To anyone with a computer, tablet, or phone, it is readily apparent that there is extensive display advertising on Facebook and other 'social' sites, as well as on Amazon and other 'shopping' sites,” Google wrote. “Plaintiffs’ exclusion of major sites (such as The New York Times) that contract directly with advertisers or agencies for ad placement is equally indefensible.”
Freeman agreed with Google on that point, writing that the advertisers' antitrust theories didn't account for all varieties of online display advertising.
“The court is particularly concerned that plaintiffs’ market excludes social-media display advertising and direct negotiations,” she wrote.
She said any new complaint brought by the advertisers should include additional facts showing why social media display ads, and online ads sold directly by publishers wouldn't be substitutes to “display advertising brokering services.”