France fines Google for abuse of dominant position in online advertising | Google

Google has been fined € 220m (£ 189m) by French competition regulators for abusing its dominant position in the online advertising market in a landmark settlement that could rebalance the relationship between tech giants and digital publishers.

The agreement with the French Competition Authority, which found that Google unfairly favors its own tools for buying and selling online ads over those of its competitors, marks the first time that the company has Silicon Valley agrees to change its practices following the investigation. .

“Google has used its vertically integrated business model in display advertising to gain an advantage over other competitors,” Isabelle de Silva, president of the authority, said on Monday. “This is the first survey in the world to examine the display advertising space where Google is dominant, and the first time that Google has agreed to a deal with commitments. This case will be of interest to other regulators looking at the online advertising market and technologies.

In a blog post, Google said it would make changes to Ad Manager, its platform used by major publishers, and change how it works with its AdX exchange, where online advertising space is auctioned. The French regulator said Ad Manager was sharing price information from its competitors to give AdX an edge over other auction platforms.

“We have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to use the data and use our tools with other ad technologies,” said Google, which has no plans to do so. appeal of the decision. “We will test and develop these changes over the next few months before rolling them out more widely, including some globally.”

The French regulator said its move could pave the way for publishers who felt disadvantaged to seek damages from Google. “The decision to sanction Google is particularly important because it is the first decision in the world to focus on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online advertising industry relies,” said de Silva.

The case began with a complaint in 2019 from News Corp – publisher of The Times, The Sun and The Wall Street Journal, the French newspaper Le Figaro and the Rossel Group of Belgium. Le Figaro withdrew from the case last November.

In February, News Corp struck a global news deal with Google as part of a broad trade deal.

“We have not been involved in the matter in France since we struck our deal with Google in February,” a News Corp spokesperson said. “But we remain satisfied with the progress of our global partnership, and look forward to a fruitful relationship in the years to come.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the move, which could help rebalance the power of tech giants in advertising.

“The practices put in place by Google to favor its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on advertising revenue,” he said. “These are serious practices and they have been rightly punished. “

Google, which is owned by its parent company Alphabet, has a habit of breaking European rules on advertising. In 2019, the company was fined € 1.5 billion by the EU for blocking competing online search advertisers. In 2018, the EU competition authority fined the company a record 4.3 billion euros for using its Android mobile operating system to block competitors. A year earlier, Google had been fined 2.4 billion euros for obstructing competing shopping comparison sites.

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