Google pledges Ad Manager changes after tiny French antitrust fine
France’s antitrust regulator has fined Google €220 million (£189 million) for abusing its dominant position in the online advertising market.
Even though the fine is tiny by Google’s standards – less than 1% of its 2020 revenue (£39 billion) – the French Competition Authority hailed the decision as a “global first” because it tackled the complex algorithmic auction process that gives Google such an advantage in online display advertising.
Google said it would not appeal the findings of the case and would implement some of the regulator’s remedies globally, it was announced today.
The case could provide a roadmap for other lawsuits against Google, such as in the US state of Texas, or in other regulatory investigations like that of the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority, which is looking into the internet company’s proposals to remove third-party cookies from its Chrome browser.
The investigation found that Google had granted preferential treatment to its own tech as part of the Google Ad Manager sales platform, and Google’s AdX exchange where ads are auctioned. Google had shared pricing information on rivals from Ad Manager to help AdX gain an advantage over other auction houses, it was found.
Isabelle de Silva, the president of the Autorité de la Concurrence, said: “The investigation, conducted particularly quickly, revealed processes by which Google, building on its considerable dominant position on advertising servers for sites and applications, favoured itself over its competitors on both ad servers and supply-side platforms.
“These very serious practices have penalised competition in the emerging online advertising market and have allowed Google not only to preserve but also to increase its dominant position. This sanction and these commitments will restore a fair playing field for all actors, and the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising spaces.”
The case was prompted by a complaint in 2019 from News Corp, publisher of Le Figaro newspaper in France, and Groupe Rossel in Belgium.
In response, Google’s legal director in France Maria Gomri said the company would increase the flexibility of Ad Manager to make it easier for advertisers and publishers to make use of data and use its tool with other ad tech platforms.