Brussels (Brussels Morning) Tech giant Google agreed to pay a 220-million euro fine and promised to reform its global advertising business in a landmark antitrust settlement reached with French authorities on Monday.
The French antitrust watchdog initially launched an investigation into Google’s advertising practices in 2019, acting on a complaint from global media conglomerate News Corp, the French publishing group Le Figaro and the Belgian press group Rossel.
The investigation determined that Google Ad Manager, the company’s ad management platform for large publishers, favours Google’s own online advertising marketplace Google AdX, which enables publishers to sell space to advertisers in real time.
The platform and the marketplace, the investigation concluded, represented an abuse of Google’s dominant position. Ad Manager provided AdX with strategic data unavailable to the competition, such as the winning bidding prices, while AdX also enjoyed private access to requests made by advertisers via Google’s ad services.
“The practices put in place by Google to favour its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on ad revenues”, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said after the settlement was published. “These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned”.
Following the French antitrust watchdog’s findings, Google reached a settlement with the authorities in which it has agreed to make significant changes to its advertising business in the future, in addition to taking on a fine of 220 million euro.
“The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies”, Isabelle de Silva, head of the French antitrust agency, declared.
Google committed to improve its Ad Manager services to provide fairer access and interoperability with rival ad servers and advertising space sales platforms. The first batch of changes is expected to be implemented by the first quarter of 2022. Google also agreed to make it easier for publishers to use its advertising tools and available data.