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Axel Springer publishing building: Advertising is a central revenue factor

Photo: Monika Skolimowska / dpa

In the dispute over alleged discrimination in the advertising business, Axel Springer and other European media companies are taking Google to court.

"More than 30 European news media companies today filed a damages claim worth 2.1 billion euros against Google because of its adtech practices," said the law firm Geradin Partners on Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed in a court in Amsterdam.

The lawsuit is about the online advertising market, which generates around $600 billion in sales worldwide and is increasingly being dominated by personalized advertising.

The plaintiffs accuse Google of unfair practices in the so-called adtech area, the software behind the online advertising business.

There is often talk of a so-called “adtech tax” that advertising companies have to pay to providers like Google.

Accused of abuse of market power

The US provider has large market shares at various levels in the online business.

Google not only displays advertising on its own platforms such as the search engine and YouTube, but also maintains huge marketplaces in which advertising space on other websites is auctioned off.

The provider also supplies the technology for delivering advertising banners.

Google has been accused for years of gaining an advantage over rivals when it comes to advertising services and thus distorting competition, and there are several lawsuits pending in the USA.

The EU Commission also initiated proceedings.

A spokeswoman for Axel Springer said the lawsuit was about “advocating for a fair competitive environment.”

A Google spokesman said: "The present lawsuit is speculative and questionable in nature and we will take vigorous and objective action against it." Google works in partnership with media companies in the UK and across Europe.

In this collaboration, advertising technology is also constantly being developed.

Google's advertising business is by far the most important business area for parent company Alphabet.

In the final quarter of 2023 alone, the group had revenues of $65.5 billion.

Dispute over advertising cookies

The group is currently trying to reorganize the advertising business and is working on abolishing so-called advertising cookies and instead collecting information about the interests of users directly in the Chrome browser.

There is increasing resistance to this move.

The influential IAB Tech Lab, which develops standards for the adtech business, concluded in an analysis at the beginning of February that the alternative solutions previously offered by Google were not sufficient and that the industry was inadequately prepared for the radical change.