Google slapped with €220 million fine in France

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The Autorité de la concurrence or the French Competition Authority (FCA) has handed Google a monumental fine totaling €220 million.

The fine comes after the authority concluded that Google had abused its dominance in the advertising server market.

“The Autorité noted that Google granted preferential treatment to its proprietary technologies offered under the Google Ad Manager brand, both with regard to the operation of the DFP ad server (which allows publishers of sites and applications to sell their advertising space), and its SSP AdX sales platform (which organises the auction process allowing publishers to sell their “impressions” or advertising inventories to advertisers) to the detriment of its competitors and publishers,’ the French Competition Authority wrote in a statement.

The complaint was brought by News Corp Inc and Rossel La Voix both of which make use of Doubleclick for Publishers and Doubleclick AdExchange.

“The complainants argued that Google has behaved in such a way that these two technologies – both marketed under the Google Ad Manager brand since the summer of 2018 – benefit each other, to the detriment of both competing technology providers and the market performance of their online advertising inventories,” the authority said.

This practice of giving preferential treatment to its own platforms has already had a serious effect on the market the FCA says.

Not only have ad server operators lost out on advertising, publishers who run advertising lost out on competitive rates other platforms may have offered had Google not been in the mix.

The good news is that Google has acknowledged its misstep.

“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. That’s why, as part of an overall resolution of the FCA’s investigation, we have agreed on a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to make use of data and use our tools with other ad technologies,” legal director for Google France, Maria Gomri, said in a statement.

Among those commitments is one to increased flexibility within Google Ad Manager which sounds like it could be a better way to get your advertising in front of more eyes.

“We will further increase the flexibility of Google Ad Manager to meet the evolving needs of our partners, including allowing them to set custom pricing rules for ads that are in sensitive categories and implementing product changes that improve interoperability between Ad Manager and third-party ad servers. Also, we are reaffirming that we will not limit Ad Manager publishers from negotiating specific terms or pricing directly with other sell-side platforms (SSPs). And we will continue to provide Ad Manager publishers with controls to include or exclude certain buyers at their discretion,” writes Gomri.

Google will also make it easier to access data from an Ad Manager auction but importantly it will end some of its self-preference practices.

Google says it is still testing and developing these changes and we suspect that some of these changes will be made globally so as to avoid a monumental fine like this again.

“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,” Gomri concludes.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.