The Wall Street Journal reported today that Google has made “concessions” to U.S. antitrust regulators to avoid a federal lawsuit over its advertising business. It says that this is “a sign that legal and regulatory pressures on the tech giant are coming to a head.”
Among the concessions, Google has offered to spin off its advertising business as a standalone business under Google’s parent company Alphabet. And while I’m not a legal expert, I don’t see how changing how Alphabet reports revenues would change anything: the U.S. government could simply sue Alphabet instead.
And there is every indication that this concession would not satisfy the U.S. Department of Justice, which the WSJ reports prefers “deep structural changes to Google’s ad-tech business rather” that structural changes. The Department is prepared to sue Google for its anti-competitive ad business before the end of the summer.
“We have been engaging constructively with regulators to address their concerns,” a statement admitted. “As we’ve said before, we have no plans to sell or exit [our advertising] business. Rigorous competition in ad technology has made online ads more relevant, reduced fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers.”
In related news, the paper also reports that Google has offered a different concession to address a similar EU investigation: it has offered to “settle a different allegation of anticompetitive conduct related to YouTube.” As part of that offer, Google would let competitors broker ad sale directly on YouTube; today, the only way to buy ads on YouTube is through Google.
Google’s U.S. antitrust troubles aren’t confined to online ads: the U.S. DOJ sued Google for its anti-competitive online search business practices two years ago. It also faces multiple antitrust cases around the globe, including in the EU and elsewhere.