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EU Google-DoubleClick probe calls for Google-DoubleClick probe

$3.1bn merger could 'harm consumers'

After investigating Google's bid to buy DoubleClick, EU antitrust regulators have decided to investigate it again.

The European Commission originally promised a ruling on Google's proposed $3.1bn purchase on October 26. Then it delayed things a bit, promising a decision would arrive today. And today, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, it said we'll have to wait until April 2.

The commission's initial probe "indicated that the proposed merger would raise competition concerns in the markets for intermediation and ad serving in online advertising." So now it's launched a full-scale anti-trust investigation, which will take another 90 days.

"The Commission will, in particular, investigate whether without this transaction, DoubleClick would have grown into an effective competitor of Google in the market for online ad intermediation," reads a statement from the commission.

But that's not all: "It will also investigate whether the merger, which combines the leading providers of respectively, on the one hand, online advertising space and intermediation services, and, on the other hand, ad serving technology, could lead to anti-competitive restrictions for competitors operating in these markets and thus harm consumers."

Google agreed to purchase DoubleClick in April this year, but the deal has faced scrutiny from the US Federal Trade Commission as well as the EU.

Google insists the merger will promote free speech. But various online ad rivals and privacy advocates see things a little differently. Microsoft, in particular, has vehemently argued that the deal would throttle competition.

Yes, that's the same Microsoft that was slapped by the US Department of Justice for monopolistic shenanigans in the operating system market. But it may have a point. ®

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