Google settles antitrust case with French regulator over advertising practices

Photo: AP In this April 17, 2007 file photo, exhibitors work on laptop computers in front of an illuminated sign of the Google logo at the industrial fair Hannover Messe, Germany.

France's competition regulator on Monday fined Google 220 million euros ($267 million) after finding it had abused its dominant market position for placing online ads, the latest move by European authorities to take tougher stances against US tech giants.

The penalty is part of a settlement reached after three media groups – News Corp, French daily Le Figaro and Belgium's Groupe Rossel – accused Google of effectively having a monopoly over online ad sales. The settlement with French regulators of one of the first antitrust cases globally to allege the tech company abused its leading role in the digital advertising sector.

The French competition authority alleged Google’s advertising server gave the company’s online ad auction house AdX and Doubleclick Ad Exchange platform an advantage in advertising auctions.

Clients trying to place ads on internet sites or mobile apps using rival platforms often found they were paying more than those using both of Google's services, since regrouped under the Google Ad Manager brand.

The regulator said Google did not contest its findings and has committed to operational changes including improved interoperability with third-party ad placement providers.

"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’s commitments will be binding for three years, the authority said.

A Google spokeswoman didn’t immediately have any comment. The company has previously said that its advertising-technology tools work with competitors’ products, but added that it also regularly updates its systems based on outside feedback “to better serve users and the wider ecosystem.”

While Google’s commitments are only binding in France, they could become a template for how Google will resolve similar complaints from publishers and advertising-technology rivals elsewhere- leading to changes in how Google operates its system around the world.

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