Google fined $270 million in France for unfair advertising practices
Google will pay a €220 million ($270 million) fine and make changes to its huge online advertising business as part of an antitrust settlement with French regulators.
The penalty comes as the tech giant faces multiple US suits over anti-competitive behavior and could lead to similar agreements with officials elsewhere. Facebook (FB), the other dominant player in digital advertising, is being investigated separately by EU regulators over claims that its use of data gives it an unfair advantage in the business.
In a statement on Monday, France’s competition authority said it had fined Google “for abusing its dominant position” in the market for online advertising to the detriment of rival platforms and publishers.
The authority accused Google of giving “preferential treatment” to Google Ad Manager, its ad management platform for large publishers. It did this by favoring its own online ad marketplace, AdX, where publishers sell space to advertisers in real-time, according to the watchdog.
“The decision sanctioning Google is particularly significant because it is the first decision in the world to examine the complex algorithmic bidding processes by which online display advertising operates,” France’s antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva said in the statement.
As part of the settlement agreement, Google has committed to making it easier for publishers in France to make use of its data and use its 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,” the company said in a statement.
“We are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products,” it added.
De Silva said that the fine and Google’s commitments “will restore a level playing field for all players, and the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising space.”
The case followed complaints by News Corp (NWS), French news publishing group Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel. Earlier this year, Google agreed to pay French news publishers for their content in a landmark agreement under new copyright laws. It later signed similar deals with News Corp and Seven West Media in Australia.
Google is facing several antitrust cases in the United States, including one brought by the federal government, which accuses the company of operating an illegal monopoly in the markets for online search and search advertising.