Press Release

Google must show genuine change of behaviour, CMA must keep its eyes open

Today’s announcement from the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) represents a potential landmark towards reducing Google’s dominance of the world wide web.

Marketers for an Open Web (MOW) said the CMA had listened and responded to its concerns that Google was stifling competition in digital advertising. James Rosewell, director of MOW, said: “This appears to provide a mechanism to create the conditions for both genuinely safeguarding people’s privacy and choice.”

MOW, a group of online publishers, advertisers, tech and data companies, has long argued that Google was making changes to its processes under the guise of protecting personal privacy while tightening its grip on digital advertising and driving its own revenues.

Google is planning to scrap “third-party cookies”, the software used by advertisers to collect data, and to replace it with its own “Privacy Sandbox”. MOW maintains this will distort competition and restrict others ability to choose how their businesses operate.

The CMA’s decision to monitor Google’s proposals to ensure they do not damage competition is therefore welcomed, as is the 60 day “standstill” period during which advertisers can voice their objections to the new third-party cookies replacement before third-party cookies are altered. However, MOW warned, the CMA must make sure it is completely engaged with the whole replacement and implementation process and that Google is not able to slip anti-competitive measures under the radar.

Critically, said Rosewell: “The authority must make sure that Google is not allowed to use undue influence and bully competitors as it has done in the past. We will be looking to Google to honour its undertakings given to the CMA. Likewise, we will be looking to the CMA and when its begins operations, the regulator’s new Digital Markets Unit, to guarantee that a level playing field is created and maintained, preserving the open web for future generations.”

Rosewell said MOW would now be looking to worldwide regulators and the W3C organisation that sets industry standards to embrace the CMA’s thinking.