On October 12, 2021, the ICA closed an investigation against Google, due to the fact that, in June 2021, the European Commission (the “Commission”) opened an investigation having the same scope.[1]

On October 20, 2020, following a complaint filed by the main Italian trade association active in the digital advertising industry (Interactive Advertising Bureau Italia), the ICA opened an investigation into Google for an alleged abuse of dominant position in the Italian market for display advertising. The complainant claimed that Google engaged in a set of exclusionary practices depriving advertisers and publishers of the possibility of choosing their business partners and the parties with whom they wished to enter into contractual relationships. In particular, the complaint focused on user profiling for advertising purposes, and alleged that over the previous few years Google had carried out several types of conducts aimed at undermining its competitors’ ability to effectively target users for the purposes of display advertising activities.

In the decision to initiate the investigation, the ICA stated that Google may have engaged in internal and external discriminatory conduct by: (i) on the one hand, refusing to provide its competitors with the keys to decrypt Google users’ IDs and excluding the possibility of tracking third- party pixels; and (ii) on the other hand, using those same tracking tools within its internal divisions, thus enabling its own advertising intermediation services to achieve a targeting capability that other equally efficient competitors cannot replicate.

In addition, the ICA noted that the data relied upon by Google for the purposes of its advertising intermediation services was gathered through tools and services (e.g., the Android mobile operating system, the Chrome mobile and PC browser, the mapping and navigation services, as well as the services provided through Google ID) offered by Google on dominated markets, which are unrelated to the supply of web content and the sale and purchase of advertising space.

Despite the relevance of the case, on October 12, 2021, the ICA closed its investigation against Google pursuant to Article 11(6) of Regulation No. (EC) 1/2003,[2] because on June 22, 2021, the Commission had initiated proceedings having the same scope.[3]

[1]      ICA, Decision of October 20, 2021, No. 28398, Case A542, Google nel mercato italiano del display advertising.

[2]      European Commission, Council Regulation No. 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty.

[3]      European Commission, Decision of June 22, 2021, Case AT.40670, Adtech and Data-related practices.