French Regulator Fines Google €220 Million in Antitrust Case

The French national competition regulator, Autorité de la Concurrence, fined Google on Monday 220 million euros ($267 million) after concluding that it had abused its dominant market position for placing online ads, France24 reports.

The latest move of European authorities to take tougher stances against U.S. tech giants is part of a settlement reached after three media groups – News Corp, French daily Le Figaro and Belgium’s Groupe Rossel La Voix – accused Google in 2019 of effectively having a monopoly over online ad sales.

“The Competition Authority imposes sanctions on Google in the amount of 220 million euros for promoting its services in the online advertising sector,” the antitrust authority stated in an announcement made on Monday.

It determined that Google gave preferential treatment to its own ad auction service AdX and Doubleclick Ad Exchange real-time auction platform so clients trying to place ads on internet sites or mobile apps using rival platforms were often paying more than those using both of Google’s services.

“It is the first ruling in the world to scrutinise the complex algorithmic processes for the auctions that determine online ‘display’ advertising,” the authority’s president Isabelle de Silva said in a statement.

Google did not contest its findings and has committed to operational changes including improved interoperability with third-party ad placement providers, vowing to render it easier for competitors to use its online-advertising tools.

“The decision fining Google is particularly significant as it is the first throughout the world to tackle complex algorithmic auction processes used for online display-advertising,” said De Silva.

Google was fined 150 million euros – its first antitrust fine in France – on December 2019 in a case involving online advertising in which Google had abused its position by setting “opaque and difficult to understand operating rules” for its Google Ads advertising platform.

Google’s dominance in online search came under scrutiny in December 2020 as a group of U.S. states filed the third antitrust lawsuit in two months against the internet giant, at the same time as 10 Republican state attorneys general led by Texas sued the company for anticompetitive practices, accusing Google of illegally monopolising internet search through a series of anti-competitive contracts and conduct.

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