LONDON – Google has agreed to pay about $270 million in fines and changes to some of its business as part of a deal announced Monday with French antitrust regulators, who who accused the company of abusing its dominance in the online advertising market.
The deal is one of the first times the antitrust regulator has directly targeted Google’s online advertising infrastructure, a platform on which scores of websites worldwide rely to sell ads. fox.
The fine is lower than Google’s overall business – its parent company, Alphabet, earned $41 billion last year – but French authorities hailed the concessions they received. from companies because they affect their technology and business practices.
In the United States, Google faces similar scrutiny over its online advertising technology from a group of state attorneys general, as well as from Britain’s antitrust regulator.
Bruno Le Maire, France’s Finance Minister, heralded the deal.
“It is essential that our competition rules apply to the digital giants operating in our country,” he said. The allegations of abuse of ad technology are “serious,” he added, “and they have been punished appropriately.”
French competition regulators say Google has used its position as the world’s largest internet advertising company to hurt news publishers and other internet ad sellers. Authorities say a service owned by the Silicon Valley giant and used by others to sell internet ads has given Google’s business an edge, reducing competition .
As part of the deal, French authorities say Google has agreed to end its offering of services and change its advertising system to make it easier to work with other services. .
Google has built its dominance in online advertising for more than a decade, controlling the technology at nearly every step of the process that underlies vital parts of the internet economy. Its services help publishers sell space on their websites, and its technology runs automated auctions that allow brands to bid to place ads in those locations.
Google’s position has long been a concern of competitors and news publishers, who say it gives the company unfair insights into ad prices, inventory, and advertising. reports and data that others cannot compare.
Among the companies that have filed complaints with French authorities are Google wwere News Corp., publisher of The Wall Street Journal and a longtime critic of the company’s ad technology, the competition regulator said. and French publisher Rossel La Voix Group. The companies have argued that Google’s power is so far away that it can cut each ad sale without having to pay the cost of creating content. News organizations have argued that this economic imbalance has contributed to their declining business fortunes and shrinking newsrooms.
French authorities focus on links between Google’s ad auction marketplace, known as AdX, and another service, called Ads Manager, used by publishers to sell space on websites for advertising. France’s competition regulator says Google has shared pricing information collected from Ad Manager to an advantage for its auction products.
“These very serious practices have affected competition in the emerging online advertising market and helped Google not only maintain but also increase its dominant position,” said Isabelle de Silva, president of the French competition authority.
Google does not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, but the case may show how the company can appease regulators elsewhere. Google has agreed to provide more data to competitors and make it easier for them to use its online advertising services.
An independent supervisor, paid for by Google, will also be responsible for ensuring the company complies with the terms of the agreement. The order is required for three years in France, although Google says it may adopt some policy changes elsewhere.
“While we believe we provide valuable services and compete on value, we are committed to working actively with regulators everywhere to improve our products. us,” Maria Gomri, Google France’s legal director, wrote in a blog post.
The actions in France are part of growing scrutiny in Europe, the United States and elsewhere over the power of the world’s biggest tech companies.
Last week, the European Commission and the UK announced antitrust investigations against Facebook over the classifieds service Marketplace. The commission also brought antitrust charges against Apple, saying that the App Store’s policies were anticompetitive and that Amazon unfairly treated third-party merchants. The European Union is also considering tougher antitrust laws and content moderation rules aimed at the tech sector.
In the United States, federal regulators have brought antitrust charges against Google and Facebook in recent months. Regulators in Australia, China, Germany and elsewhere are also showing greater willingness to participate in the digital economy.
Liz Alderman contribution report.