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'So much for transparent bidding': Paytm boss slams Google, FB over online ads 'deal'

Sharma was referring to the recent controversy around Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc over their alleged deal in 2018 in which Facebook agreed not to compete with Google online ad tools provided Google provides special treatment when Facebook used them

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | December 23, 2020 | Updated 11:50 IST
'So much for transparent bidding': Paytm boss slams Google, FB over online ads 'deal'
Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Paytm chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Paytm chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma has slammed both Google and Facebook for their alleged collusion in online advertising. "Is it even shocking to learn that ad $ pricing on Google is rigged to support "their friends"? so much for transparent bidding...," the Paytm founder tweeted.

He cited a Wall Street Journal report, which suggested both Google and Facebook had agreed to cooperate and assist one another in case of a probe into their collusion. "Google's reply on ad purchase process collusion with FB: "claims are inaccurate. We don't manipulate the auction"," tweeted Sharma.

Also read: Paytm user? Beware of this scam

Sharma also retweeted a tweet by a user who said "the ads market from publisher platform or advertiser platform is completely rigged. Google owns everything. The market which was supposed to be most democratic is made to look democratic by these companies for namesake".

Sharma was referring to the recent controversy around Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc over their alleged deal in 2018 in which Facebook agreed not to compete with Google online ad tools provided Google provides special treatment when Facebook used them.

An unredacted version of a lawsuit filed by 10 states against Google last week says both Google and Facebook knew the deal could trigger anti-trust probe, which is why they agreed to discuss ways to deal with the issue in advance.

As per the lawsuit, their contract clearly spells out both the tech giants will "cooperate and assist each other in responding to any anti-trust action". Both also agreed to inform each other in case of any government communication in this regard.

Also read: Paytm-led Indian startups to unionise against Google; Vijay Shekhar Sharma throws down the gauntlet

The lawsuit (unredacted draft version) also mentions Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg telling Mark Zuckerberg via an email that "this is a big deal strategically," claims the WSJ report.

Meanwhile, Google in its reaction has said such agreements between companies were common. "We don't manipulate the auction," the Google spokesperson said, adding there was no question of involvement as Facebook did not receive any exclusive data from Google.

The lawsuit, however, had alleged Google played a central role in buying and selling of display ads across the web. For example, a sneaker blog that uses software from Google to sell ads could end up generating revenue from a footwear retailer that bought ads on Facebook.

Google allegedly also entered similar partnerships with other advertising companies as part of an effort to maintain market share that was reportedly codenamed Project Jedi. In exchange, the lawsuit alleged, Facebook received various benefits, including access to Google's data and policy exceptions that enabled its clients to unfairly get more ads placed than clients of other Google partners could.

Also read: Facebook, Google agreed to team up against antitrust probe, says draft lawsuit

Meanwhile, this is not the first time Paytm chief has attacked Google for its policies. In September, Paytm was taken off the Play Store by Google for allegedly violating its "gambling policies" only to be back on Google Play in less than 24 hours.

The Paytm founder then called for the formation of a new grouping that gives equal representation to the domestic tech firms. Since established industry bodies such as NASSCOM and IAMAI are dominated by tech companies of the US-origin, such a platform would ensure all local tech firms have their voices fairly represented, Sharma had said.

He said similar features were running elsewhere including on Google's own payments app. Paytm would also seek government and regulatory intervention in this matter, he said, adding many players were facing a similar problem with Google.

Also read: Paytm blames Google of discrimination after app removed from Play Store

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