Google’s power over the multi-billion dollar online world of advertising is front and centre of a new consumer watchdog report.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s findings have been released amid the federal government and tech giant’s battle over the proposed media bargaining code.
The interim report looks at the supply chain behind digital advertising in Australia, which bolsters nearly $3.4 billion in opportunities on websites and apps each year.
Google is the dominant market player as it has not only bought up other companies, like YouTube, but has unrivalled access to data through services like its search engine and web browser Chrome.
They track people as they surf the web, with Google using that consumer information as collateral to advertisers.
ACCC chair Rod Sims says evidence given to the inquiry has raised concerns over Google’s potential conflicts of interest due to its various roles in the industry.
“This includes Google very often acting on behalf of both publishers and advertisers for the same ad sale across the ad tech supply chain, while also selling its own ad inventory,” he said.
“As consumers live more of their lives online, ad tech plays an increasingly critical role in the advertising market and the wider digital economy.
“But there is a real lack of competition, choice and transparency in this industry. These issues add to the cost of advertising for businesses, which will ultimately impact the prices paid by consumers.”
Google says it’s one of many players in the market.
“Google has made significant efforts and investments in innovation and promotion of a healthy ad tech ecosystem, and we always aim to do so in a way that balances the interests of users, advertisers, and publishers,” a spokesman for the tech giant said in a statement.
The interim report is from the ACCC’s digital advertising technology services inquiry, with a final report due by August 31.
The probe is separate to the watchdog’s digital platform inquiry, which sparked the planned media bargaining code.
The code would force tech giants – namely Google and Facebook – to pay news media companies for content, or face severe penalties.
At a recent Senate inquiry Google said the proposed code was so financially risky it would have no choice but to pull its search engine from Australia if it was made law.
The tech giant then launched a slick advertising campaign against the code.
But reports have emerged Google is now planning to continue rolling out its “news showcase” function, where it signs deals with publishers so users can read pay-walled articles through the tech giant.
Another hearing into the code is planned for Monday, where digital groups and smaller publishers will appear.