The French authorities have once again come down hard on Google, this time for abusing its advertising power, by whacking the tech giant with a €220m (£189m) fine.
France, which already holds the record for the biggest GDPR fine against Google dating back to January 2019 when it hit the firm with a €50m (£44m) penalty, launched its investigation in 2019 following a joint complaint from News Corp, French news publishing group Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel.
Its competition watchdog – Autorité de la Concurrence – found that Google’s ad management platform for large publishers, Google Ad Manager, favoured the company’s own online ad marketplace, Google AdX.
The regulator ruled that Google Ad Manager provided AdX with strategic data, such as the winning bidding prices, while it also enjoyed privileged access to requests made by advertisers via Google’s ad services.
Autorité de la Concurrence chief Isabelle de Silva said: “The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire added: “The practices put in place by Google to favour its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on ad revenues. These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned.”
Google said it would make changes to its advertising business and has agreed to make it easier for publishers to use its data and tools.
“We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” the company said.
The fine is the latest in a series of rulings against the tech giant. The EU competition authority fined the company a record €4.34bn (£3.9bn) fine in 2018 for using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals. Google was also fined €1.49bn (£1.28bn) by the EU for blocking rival online search advertisers in 2019. That followed a €2.42bn fine in 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.
Google France legal director Maria Gomri said: “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.”
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