Google has agreed to pay 220m euros (£189m) to settle antitrust charges from French regulators that it unfairly favoured its own tools for buying and selling adverts.
In a statement on Monday, France’s competition authority (FCA) said it had fined Google “for abusing its dominant position” in the market for online advertising to the detriment of rival platforms and publishers.
Google had already in December 2019 been fined 150 million euros by the watchdog, which alleged it had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and had unclear advertising on the Google Ads page.
But on Monday the French watchdog accused Google of giving “preferential treatment” to Google Ad Manager, its ad management platform for large publishers.
It allegedly did this by favouring its own online ad marketplace, AdX, where publishers sell space to advertisers in real time, according to the watchdog.
But the fact that Google has now agreed to pay the fine and settle the case, marks the first time the search engine giant has agreed to make changes to its practices as a result of an European investigation.
Google announced its decision in a blog post by Maria Gomri, Google France’s legal director.
“Over the past two years, we have been working with the French Competition Authority (FCA) to answer their questions about our advertising technology, and more specifically about Google Ad Manager, our publisher platform,” wrote Gomri.
“While we believe we offer valuable services and compete on the merits, we are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products,” she wrote. “That’s why, as part of an overall resolution of the FCA’s investigation, we have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our 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.”
Isabelle de Silva, head of the French competition authority, reportedly 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 against Google began back in 2019 after a complaint by long-term critic News Corp, which is the publisher of the Times, the Sun and Wall Street Journal.
In February this year, Google agreed to pay $76 million (£55m) to French news publishers for their content in a landmark agreement under new copyright laws.
A week later in February, News Corp struck a global news deal with Google in an extensive commercial agreement for its publications around the world.
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