Tokyo wags finger at Google for blocking Yahoo Japan! from using ad tech

Seven years of stonewalling and no consequences for advertising giant

Japan's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has concluded that Google unfairly blocked its local Yahoo! rival from accessing advertising technology, but will not fine the Chocolate Factory.

The FTC alleges that from 2015 to 2022, Google prevented Yahoo Japan from receiving targeted ad revenue generated by searches on mobile devices, Bloomberg reports. When the FTC got involved, Google cleaned up its act and allowed Yahoo Japan to use its advertising systems, but that wasn't enough to stop the agency from launching an investigation in October last year.

The Tokyo-based watchdog ultimately concluded that Google's actions were unfair. "Google's actions had a significant effect of limiting competition," said Digital Platform Investigation Division head Saiko Nakajima said.

However, the FTC won't be levying any fines or penalties against Google. Instead, the agency says it'll be keeping a close eye on the tech giant, and can reopen the case if it thinks Google is relapsing into its old behavior.

The outcome is not a bad deal for Google, which blocked Yahoo Japan for more than seven years.

The Japanese FTC recently proposed draft rules that would allow Google to be fined 20 percent of local revenues for breaking regulations on abusive app store monopolies. This would rise to 30 percent for repeat offenses. Apple would also be subject to the same regulations, which would be a big step up from the 6 percent fine tool that Japan currently has at its disposal.

In other countries, Google is facing increasing scrutiny over its ad tech. In Europe, Google is being sued by more than 30 media companies for damages totaling €2.1 billion ($2.2 billion), which is no small sum even for Google.

Canada has also opened its own antitrust investigation into Google, piling on even more pressure. Although each lawsuit and probe may be inconsequential on their own, the combined force could be very uncomfortable for the international search engine developer.

We've asked Google for comment on the FTC's findings, and we'll update if we hear back. ®

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