The EU has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google over concerns the tech giant favours its own online advertising services.
The probe will examine whether Google is harming competition by restricting third-party access to user data for use in advertising while reserving this data for its own use.
“Online advertising services are at the heart of how Google and publishers monetise their online services,” said EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager.
“Google collects data to be used for targeted advertising purposes, it sells advertising space and also acts as an online advertising intermediary. So Google is present at almost all levels of the supply chain for online display advertising. We are concerned that Google has made it harder for rival online advertising services to compete in the so-called ad tech stack.”
Advertising across search display and Youtube videos makes up a significant portion of Google’s overall revenue, with the company raking in around $147bn (£106bn) from online ads last year.
The company also operates several advertising technology services that connect advertisers and publishers. This accounted for roughly 16 per cent of revenue last year.
The European Commission said its investigation will focus on display advertising and allegations that Google favours its own services and blocks access to key user data.
A Google spokesperson said the company would cooperate with the investigation, adding: “Thousands of European businesses use our advertising products to reach new customers and fund their websites every single day. They choose them because they’re competitive and effective.”
It is the latest crackdown on Google by the European Commission under antitrust tzar Vestager, who has handed down fines to the company worth more than €8bn in the last decade.
In recent weeks the EU has also opened an investigation into Facebook’s classified ads business and charged Apple with anti-competitive behaviour in its app store.