By Paul Vieira


OTTAWA--Canada's antitrust watchdog said Thursday it is expanding its four-year probe into Google's online advertising practices, with a focus on whether the company engages in predatory pricing.

The Competition Bureau said it obtained an order from the Federal Court of Canada that would compel Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet, to produce records and written information relevant to its investigation.

The bureau's investigation regarding Google's conduct in the online-display-advertising market started in 2020, and investigators obtained their first court order in October 2021. The bureau probe initially focused on whether the company was "impeding the success of competitors," thereby resulting in higher prices and reduced choice, among other things.

The bureau said Thursday the probe is now widening to examine whether Google is using its market power across display-advertising-technology services to harm competition, and whether it is engaging in predatory pricing. Predatory pricing is a strategy deployed when an established firm sets prices at a low level, with the aim of eliminating or weakening rivals.

"The investigation is ongoing and there is no conclusion of wrongdoing at this time," the bureau said.

A spokesman for Google said businesses use the company's advertising products because of their effectiveness. "The advertising technology industry is highly competitive and constantly evolving, which has lowered costs and expanded choices for consumers," the spokesman said, adding that the company would work with bureau investigators.

Over a year ago, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit seeking the breakup of Google's business brokering digital advertising across much of the internet. The U.S. government alleges that Google abuses its role as one of the largest brokers, suppliers and online auctioneers of ads placed on websites and mobile applications. A trial is scheduled to begin in September.


Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

02-29-24 1216ET