Question: is it anti-competitive to regulate your own search advertising program? Answer: yes, according to myTriggers.com or the Ohio Attorney General. When Google sued for $335,000 in backpayments on AdSense clicks, erstwhile Google advertiser/competitor myTriggers.com filed a countersuit alleging Google had dinged their quality score, resulting in a 10,000% increase in costs, because the big G realized myTriggers was a competitor.
This week, the OH AG filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of myTriggers, arguing that dismissing the case as Google asks “would immunize an entire industry from the reach of this state’s antitrust laws.” MediaPost reports on myTriggers’s arguments:
MyTriggers argues that the drop in quality score was part of an anticompetitive scheme “to ensure that Google can continue to exert control over search advertising.” The shopping search site further asserted that it posed a threat to Google by monetizing searches on a cost-per-action basis, as opposed to Google’s cost-per-click model.
In addition, myTriggers claims that it wasn’t able to draw much traffic without advertising on Google because of the company’s dominance in search.
Notably, this case has drawn the most attention to date because one of its litigants is Microsoft’s chief outside counsel on anti-trust issues.
Meanwhile, Google counters with an appeal to federal law:
the federal Communications Decency Act’s “good samaritan” provisions shields it from liability for any steps taken to remove potentially objectionable content.
Google argues that its actions as a publisher — including lowering companies’ quality scores — are the type of activity that is protected by the statute.
I’m finding myTrigger’s accusations a bit hard to swallow. I don’t think it’s far-fetched to claim that Google might try to stifle competitors advertising on the search giant—but a 10,000% increase means their average CPC went from, say, 50¢ to $500,000. (And since the suit was for $335,000, we’ll say it was 33.5¢—and they got one click.) I’m also not sure that Google has to allow them to advertise at all (though taking their money if Google really did increase their costs prohibitively does sound anti-competitive), or that myTriggers has a right to advertise on Google. Google’s argument sounds suspect, too, though. Potentially objectionable content?
What do you think? Is advertising on Google a good way to promote a rival search service? Does Google perceive myTriggers as a threat?