Google Sued Over Digital Ad Display Prices

On Tuesday, Mikula Web Solutions, Inc. filed a class-action complaint against Google LLC purporting anticompetitive practices in the digital display ad market, leading to lower prices for ad spaces for the plaintiff and putative class.

The plaintiff noted that it has brought its action on behalf of “similarly situated publishers that sold digital Display Ad inventory through Google’s AdSense targeting consumers in the United States since March 11, 2008.” The relevant markets identified in the complaint are publisher ad servers, ad networks, display ad exchanges, and ad buying tools. These markets were referred to collectively as the “Display Ad Stack.” 

The plaintiff noted that Google “makes billions of dollars a year by collecting information about individual Internet users and then using that information to help advertisers find suitable persons to whom they can send direct, targeted ads.” Google allegedly obtains this information via Google Search, its Chrome web browser, and other sources. As a result, the plaintiff asserted that Google knows a lot of information about users, including when they log on, the websites they visit, what they search for, and the products they purchase..

Specifically, Mikula Web Solutions averred that Google was able to dominate these relevant markets through its acquisition of DoubleClick, which allowed it “to be a fully integrated player spanning the entire Display Ad Stack.” It was also able to become a dominant player in the market when “header bidding” was introduced in 2015, “which allowed Google’s rivals to bid simultaneously against each other for publisher impressions” and in 2018 when Google introduced Open Bidding in response to “the competition created by header bidding.” 

Google purportedly used this and other conduct to “leverage its monopoly in Search into other markets, to exclude rivals, allocate markets, and otherwise extend and defend its dominance in the Relevant Display Ad Markets.” Consequently, the plaintiff alleged that Google has dominating control over the Display Ad inventory that advertisers bid for as well as how publishers “prioritize and compare different sources to identify the advertiser that will ultimately ‘win’ the right to place an ad in a particular ad slot.” As a result of Google’s alleged anticompetitive conduct, it prevented other firms from competing in the Relevant Markets.

The plaintiff explained that it “sells digital Display Ad inventory through Google,” as a result of Google’s unlawful conduct the plaintiff alleged that it “has been paid lower-than-competitive rates for its digital Display Ad inventory.” The plaintiff noted that Display Ads are ads on a website; the suppliers of that ad space rely on these Display Ads for revenue for their business, therefore “the price at which they can sell space on their page is critical.” The plaintiff claimed that Google’s purported anticompetitive conduct has harmed it and other publishers.

Google was accused of violating Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act. The plaintiff is seeking class certification, for the plaintiff and its counsel to represent the class, equitable relief, and an award for damages.

Mikula Web Solutions is represented by Gustafson Gluek PLLC; Edelson Lechtzin LLP; Grabar Law Office; The Miller Law Firm, P.C.; Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, P.C.; Wexler Wallace LLP; and NastLaw LLC.

This lawsuit follows another in which Google was sued for anticompetitive practices in the Publisher Ad Server Market in December.