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UK watchdog probes Google and Facebook-owner Meta over ‘Jedi Blue’ deal

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ritain’s competition watchdog is investigating Google and Facebook-owner Meta over an ad agreement between the two tech giants.

The Competition and Markets Authority will probe whether a 2018 agreement between Google and Meta – internally codenamed “Jedi Blue” – broke the law.

“We’re concerned that Google may have teamed up with Meta to put obstacles in the way of competitors who provide important online display advertising services to publishers,” said CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli.

He said the deal could have made it hard for start-ups and smaller businesses to break into the market – “and may ultimately reduce customer choice”.

The probe has been raised over concerns that the two businesses hampered competition in markets for online display advertising services.

In particular it will focus on a service known as ‘header bidding’ which allows news publishers to offer ad space to multiple buyers at the same time.

The CMA said it will investigate Google’s conduct “to see if the firm abused a dominant position and gained an unfair advantage over competitors trying to provide a similar service”.

The “Jedi Blue” deal is already the subject of a complaint in the US courts and EU regulators have launched their own probe.

A Google spokesperson said: “The allegations made about this agreement are false. We’re happy to answer any questions the European Commission or the CMA have.”

The company said the agreement with Facebook helped publishers earn more revenue.

“The goal of this program is to work with a range of ad networks and exchanges to increase demand for publishers’ ad space,” Google said.

A Meta spokesperson said the business will co-operate with both enquiries.

“Meta’s non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped to increase competition for ad placements,” the company said.

Coscelli said: “We will not shy away from scrutinising the behaviour of big tech firms.”

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