Google was fined 220 million euros ($267 million) by France’s competition authority for abusing its market power in the online advertising industry.
The French Competition Authority charged Google on Monday with unfairly diverting business to its own services and discriminating against competitors. According to the watchdog, Google has agreed to pay the fine and stop some of its self-preferencing practises.
According to the investigation, Google gave preferential treatment to its DFP advertising server, which allows publishers of sites and applications to sell advertising space, and its SSP AdX listing platform, which organises auction processes and allows publishers to sell “impressions” or advertising inventory to advertisers. Google’s competitors and publishers suffered as a result, according to the regulator.
The decision, according to Isabelle de Silva, president of the French Competition Authority, is the first in the world “to look at the complex algorithmic auction processes by which online advertising ‘display’ operates.”
She went on to say that the investigation uncovered methods by which Google favoured itself over competitors on both advertising servers and supply-side platforms, which are pieces of software used by publishers to manage, sell, and optimise ad space on their websites and mobile apps.
“These very serious practises have penalised competition in the emerging online advertising market, allowing Google to not only maintain but also increase its dominant position,” de Silva said.
“This sanction and these commitments will allow for the re-establishment of a level playing field for all actors, as well as the ability of publishers to make the most of their advertising spaces.”
Google announced a series of changes to its advertising technology in a blog post on Monday.
“We recognise the role that ad tech plays in supporting access to content and information, and we’re committed to working collaboratively with regulators and investing in new products and technologies that give publishers more choice and better results when using our platforms,” wrote Maria Gomri, Google France’s legal director.
The investigation comes after a complaint was filed against Google by the United States-based News Corp, the French newspaper Le Figaro, and the Belgian press group Rossel.
Regulators across Europe are cracking down on the major US tech behemoths, fearing that they wield too much power over the bloc’s 700 million or so citizens.
Facebook was hit with two antitrust probes from regulators in the United Kingdom and Europe last week.
Over the last few years, the European Commission has launched investigations into Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, while the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority has launched investigations into Google and Apple since it became an independent regulator in its own right in January following Britain’s exit from the EU.