The American digital groups Google and Meta (formerly Facebook) are once again in conflict with the EU Commission's competition watchdogs.

As the authority announced on Friday, it has initiated the first stage of antitrust proceedings against the two companies.

The Commission suspects that the two companies colluded in the market for online advertising and thus formed a classic cartel.

Werner Mussler

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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According to the competition authority, Google and Facebook reached an agreement in September 2018, which Google dubs “Jedi Blue”.

It envisaged integrating Facebook's online advertising platform "Audience Network" into Google's "Open Bidding" platform.

"This may have been done with the intention of weakening competing advertising platforms or even ousting them from the market," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

If her authority's suspicions are confirmed, competition in the already highly concentrated online advertising market would be restricted even further, the Dane added.

This not only puts the competition at a disadvantage, but also advertisers and, ultimately, consumers.

Opening an investigation is always the first step in antitrust proceedings.

As always, the EU Commission emphasized that the outcome was completely open.

However, if the competition authority actually finds a violation of the competition rules, a cartel fine in the billions can be considered certain simply because of the high turnover of the two companies.

The Commission has already taken action against both groups on several occasions.

But it is the first time that she suspects a cartel, i.e. collusion between the two companies.