Internet giant Google is misusing its market dominance in digital advertising in ways that cause "likely harms" to advertisers, publishers, and "ultimately consumers" by forcing up prices for all three, according to Australia's competition watchdog.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's final report into Digital Advertising Services, released on Tuesday, found Google had its hand in "more than 90 per cent of ad impressions" on the internet, and its dominance has forced up the price of advertising online.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said raising the price of digital ads was ultimately inflating the price of goods for consumers at the end the transaction.
"We are concerned that the lack of competition has likely led to higher ad tech fees," Sims said.
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"An inefficient ad tech industry means higher costs for both publishers and advertisers, which is likely to reduce the quality or quantity of online content and ultimately results in consumers paying more for advertised goods."
Sims said Google's extreme dominance in the online advertising space meant it could often act on behalf of the buyer, the seller, and operate the ad exchange in a single transaction, creating a "conflict of interest".
The watchdog also found it was "not clear" how Google used information collected from consumers through its services including Google Search, Maps and YouTube to its advantage in online advertising and called for the company to publicly outline the use of this information.
Sims said the ACCC had "identified systemic competition concerns relating to conduct over many years and multiple ad tech services" by Google but warned that existing laws were not equipped to prosecute and stop anti-competitive behaviour quickly and called for new rules to even out the digital advertising playing field.
"The ACCC is considering specific allegations against Google under existing competition laws," he said. "However new regulatory solutions are needed to address Google's dominance and to restore competition to the ad tech sector for the benefit of businesses and consumers."