TORONTO –Unifor is demanding an update on the Competition Bureau’s civil investigation into whether Google has engaged in certain practices that harm competition in the online display advertising industry in Canada.
“Every day that Google is allowed to monopolize ad revenue, more harm is inflicted on the Canadian news industry, which has a negative impact on democracy as a whole,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne.
“This is an important issue and one that our union and media workers have our eyes on. We eagerly anticipate the results of the Competition Bureau’s work.”
The union wrote to Matthew Boswell of the Competition Bureau earlier this week to find out if there has been any movement within the agency to release its findings, since the probe began in October 2021.
The scope of the Competition Bureau investigation is to determine if Google is impeding the success of competitors, resulting in higher prices and reduced choice. Hindering innovation for advertising technology (ad tech) services, and harming advertisers, publishers and consumers.
The investigation includes an order from the Competition Bureau to have Google produce records and written information that are relevant to its inquiry.
Since the time the inquiry began, Canada’s crisis in the news media sector, particularly in newspapers, has continued to worsen. Unifor’s membership has been impacted with hundreds of local news operations shuttering as a result of dropping ad revenue.
As online advertising growth continues to outpace all other segments, traditional media – such as broadcast TV, radio, newspapers and magazines – have been fighting over a dwindling pool of advertising revenue. All the while, Google, Facebook and Amazon now account for 90% of internet ad spending in Canada.
Unifor’s members are very aware that advertising revenue has always been a fundamental building block in the news business.
“The list of dead newspapers reads like a roll call of regional and small-town Canada,” said Unifor Media Director Randy Kitt. “Notice of restructuring is sadly something media workers face on regular basis. News outlets are closing, consolidating and downsizing. We need Google to pay its fair share to save local news.”
In January 2023, the United States federal government and eight states sued Google, claiming the company has an illegal monopoly over online advertising.
In September 2022, a European Union court confirmed an earlier decision to impose a fine on Google and its parent company, Alphabet, for anti-competitive business practices, arising from the company’s use of its market dominance and smartphone technology to unfairly advantage its search engine services.
Based on the negative impacts on the Canadian media sector, and on the precedents set through legal proceedings in other jurisdictions, Unifor believes that Google is guilty of wrongdoing and the Competition Bureau should respond appropriately.
Unifor represents 12,000 journalists and media workers in television, newspapers, magazines, news websites and film production.