Google fined by France for abusing online advertising position

Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google LLC, speaks during the Google Cloud Next ’19 event in San Francisco, California, the United States, on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

Michael Kurz | Bloomberg | Getty Images

France’s competition authority fined Google € 220 million on Monday for abusing its market power in the online advertising industry.

The French competition authority said Google had unfairly sent business to its own services and discriminated against competition. Google has agreed to pay the fine and stop some of its self-preferential practices, the watchdog said.

The investigation found that Google has its DFP ad server, which enables website and application publishers to sell their ad space, and its SSP-AdX listing platform, which organizes auction processes and allows publishers to sell their “impressions” or ad inventory , given preferential treatment to advertisers. Google’s competitors and publishers suffered, the regulator said.

Isabelle de Silva, president of the French competition authority, said in a statement that the decision was the first in the world “to look at the complex algorithmic auction processes that make online ‘display’ advertising work”.

She added that the investigation uncovered processes by which Google favored itself over its competitors on ad servers and supply-side platforms, which are pieces of software used by publishers to manage ad space on their websites and mobile apps to sell and optimize.

“These very serious practices have put competition at a disadvantage in the emerging online advertising market and have enabled Google not only to maintain its dominant position, but also to expand,” said de Silva.

“This sanction and these obligations will make it possible to restore a level playing field for all players and to give publishers the opportunity to make optimal use of their advertising space.”

Google announced on a blog on Monday that it would make a number of changes to its advertising technology.

“We understand the role advertising technology plays in helping access to content and information, and we are committed to working with regulators and investing in new products and technologies that will give publishers more choice and better results when using our platforms.” wrote Maria Gomri, Legal Director of Google France.

The investigation came after US News Corp, French newspaper Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel filed a complaint against Google.

Regulators across Europe are cracking down on the big US tech giants, fearing they wield too much power over the bloc’s more than 700 million citizens.

Last week, Facebook was hit by antitrust investigations from regulators in the UK and Europe.

The European Commission has launched investigations against Amazon, Google and Microsoft in recent years, while the UK’s competition and market regulators have also started investigations against Google and Apple since they left the EU in January.

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