France fines Google $267 million for favoring its own ads over others
Google has agreed to pay French authorities a fine of $267 million to settle a landmark antitrust case. The French watchdog, Autorité de la concurrence, said in a press release that Google isn’t disputing the facts and has proposed several commitments to change the way its advertising services operate, which the authority has accepted.
French competition authority began investigating (via TechCrunch) Google’s ad practices in 2019 following complaints from several French publishers, including News Corp, Le Figaro, and Rosssel La Voix. The French publishers alleged that Google used its dominant position to favor its own ads to the harm of publishers and competitors.
The competition authority found that Google used the privileged relationship between Ad Manager, a platform used by publishers to sell ad space, and Adx, a marketplace for auctioning ads to undercut the competition and benefit its own business and services. The authority also alleged Google of self-preferencing its ad tools and services and not offering the same interoperability with rival ad systems.
“[Google] relying on its considerable dominant position on advertising servers for sites and applications, favored itself over its competitors on both advertising servers and SSP platforms,” said Isabelle de Silva, president of the French competition authority. “These very serious practices have penalized competition in the emerging online advertising market, and have enabled Google not only to preserve but also to increase its dominant position.”
Google didn’t accept the allegations in the settlement but has committed to a set of changes, including improving interoperability with third-party ad servers. These commitments — applicable only in France — will bind Google for three years, and an independent monitor will be appointed to ensure Google’s compliance.
“As part of an overall resolution of the FCA’s investigation, we have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our tools with other ad technologies. We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally.”
Google is also facing similar antitrust scrutiny by ten states in the US, accusing the company of illegally abusing its dominant position to hurt publishers and rivals.