The French competition authority, L’Autorité de la Concurrence, has fined Google U.S. $268 million in a case related to the online advertising technology market. According to the watchdog, Google allegedly breached regulations due to its monopolistic position in ad servers for websites and mobile applications.
The practices used by Google “are particularly serious because they penalize Google’s competitors” in certain markets and publishers of mobile sites and applications, the Competition Authority stated.
The statement confirmed that Google unfairly directed companies to its own services, discriminating against competitors. It also reported that Google agreed to pay the fine and end some of its preferential practices.
The penalty came after an in-depth investigation by the competent authorities. It determined that Google gave preferential treatment to its DFP ad server that allows website and app publishers to sell advertising space.
It also found that Google’s SSP AdX ad platform, which organizes auction processes and allows publishers to sell “impressions” or ad inventory to advertisers, unfairly favored Google’s ads.
In an interview, Isabelle De Silva, president of France’s Competition Authority, said the decision is the first in the world “to look at the complex algorithmic auction processes by which the ‘display’ of online advertising operates.”
De Silva added that the investigation revealed processes by which Google favored itself over its competitors on both ad servers and supply-side platforms. “These very serious practices have penalized competition in the emerging online advertising market and allowed Google to not only preserve but also increase its dominant position,” de Silva said.
He added: “This sanction and these commitments will restore a level playing field for all players and the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising space.”
Google, for its part, has reportedly accepted the penalty, and Google France legal director Maria Gomri wrote in a blog post on Monday that the company has been collaborating for the past two years with the French watchdog on issues related to advertising technology, in particular the publisher platform, Google Ad Manager.
According to Gomri’s writings, commitments made during the negotiations would “facilitate publishers’ use of data and our tools with other ad technologies.”
He also reported that tests would be carried out in the coming months in order to implement the measures on a global scale at a later date.
The publishing groups that filed the original complaint against Google in France were News Corp Inc, the Le Figaro group and the Rossel La Voix group. France’s competition watchdog had previously ordered Google to negotiate with publishers on remuneration for the reuse of their content, following the transposition into national law of updated European Union copyright rules, which extend related rights to publishers’ news snippets.
The watchdog confirmed that it has accepted Google’s commitments and made them binding in its decision. According to the agreement signed with the internet giant, the commitments will be binding for a period of three years.
The European Commission has issued multiple antitrust measures against Google’s business in recent years. More recently, EU regulators are further investigating Google’s Adtech practices. Therefore, more interventions are expected to follow soon.
It is not only Europe that would be slowly taking on Google, earlier this year, the Australian parliament passed for the first time globally a law for tech giants like Facebook and Google to pay local publishers for news content.
There are already several governments that, following the initiative of certain sectors, generally conservative and defenders of the free market, are taking measures to curb the abusive monopoly of some powerful firms that manage a large part of the online business.