Skip to content

Competition Bureau gets court order for investigation into Google's ad practices

The Competition Bureau says it's obtained a court order in an ongoing investigation into Google's advertising practices in Canada. The Google office is seen in Montreal on November 1, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

GATINEAU, Que. — The Competition Bureau says it's obtained a court order in an ongoing investigation into Google's advertising practices in Canada.

The order requires Google to produce records and written information relevant to the investigation. 

The bureau is investigating whether the tech giant has engaged in practices that harm competition, it said in a press release. 

The probe launched in 2020 and surrounds the online display advertising industry, or the technology products used to display ads on websites and apps. The bureau obtained its first court order for this investigation in 2021. 

It says when the investigation launched, it was "largely focused on allegations that Google was leveraging its market power in the supply of video advertising into the market for advertiser buying tools."

But now the bureau says it's expanded the scope of its investigation to examine how Google may be leveraging its market power in a way that harms competition, as well as using predatory pricing in certain display ad technology services. 

It said it requires more information to determine whether Google's practices harm competition or intend to harm it, or result in higher prices and fewer choices. There is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time, the bureau said. 

It said it's looking to determine whether Google's practices raise concerns under the restrictive trade practices provisions of the Competition Act, including abuse of dominance. 

Google spokeswoman Wendy Manton said the company "will continue to engage constructively with the Canadian Competition Bureau and demonstrate the benefits of our products to Canadian businesses and consumers." 

She said the advertising industry is "highly competitive and constantly evolving, which has lowered costs and expanded choices for consumers," and that Canadian businesses choose Google's advertising products because they're effective and reliable. 

The bureau has faced criticism over how much time it's taking to advance this investigation. 

In March 2023, Unifor demanded an update on the investigation. The union, which represents workers at several news outlets in Canada, said in a press release the media industry has been "fighting over a dwindling pool of advertising revenue" as the tech giants account for the vast majority of ad spending in the country. 

“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 president Lana Payne in the release. 

The Competition Bureau previously investigated Google for alleged anticompetitive conduct related to online search, search advertising and display advertising. That investigation closed in 2016. 

The bureau said in a release at the time it found evidence to support one of the allegations against the tech giant: "that the company used anti‑competitive clauses in certain types of contracts that negatively affected advertisers, with the intent to exclude its competitors." Google agreed not to reintroduce these clauses in Canada, nor to introduce similar clauses, the bureau said. 

— With files from Tara Deschamps

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks