France fines Google for abuse of dominant position in advertising
PARIS (AP) – Google has been fined 220 million euros ($ 268 million) by the French antitrust watchdog for abusing its “dominant” position in online advertising.
The search engine giant is also promising to overhaul the way its platform is used to buy and sell digital ads, at least in France, which could have repercussions on its ongoing legal battles with regulators elsewhere in Europe, United States and around the world.
Google’s advertising practices have harmed its competitors as well as publishers of sites and mobile applications, the Competition Authority said on Monday. The authority stated that it is the responsibility of a company in a dominant position in the market to avoid unfairly harming its competition.
Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., Did not dispute the facts and chose to settle after proposing some changes, according to a statement prepared by the Competition Authority.
The regulation could serve as a roadmap for other governments scrutinizing Google’s market power, said Douglas Melamed, professor of law at Stanford University.
“I imagine Google’s decision to settle reflected a judgment that it could live with these conditions even if it were imposed on it by other jurisdictions,” he said.
Authority chief Isabelle de Silva said the move was unprecedented in how she looked at the complex algorithmic auctions that are fueling Google’s activity in selling display ads online.
The fine, along with Google’s commitment to change its practices, “will restore a level playing field for all players, and the ability for publishers to make the most of their advertising space,” said de Silva.
Google France chief legal officer Maria Gomri said in a blog post on Monday that Google has been working with the French watchdog for two years on issues related to ad technology, including the platform known as Google. Ad Manager. She wrote that the commitments made during the negotiations “would make it easier for publishers to use the data and use our tools with other advertising technologies.”
After testing in the coming months, the changes will be rolled out more widely, some of them globally, Gomri said. She did not say what changes would apply outside of France.
The French authority’s investigation was prompted by complaints from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., the French press group Le Figaro and Rossel La Voix, based in Belgium. Le Figaro then withdrew its complaint.
US tech giants are increasingly scrutinized in Europe and elsewhere over their business practices. Germany has become the latest country to launch an investigation into Google, using increased powers to scrutinize digital giants.
The German competition watchdog said on Friday it was examining whether the contracts of news publishers using Google News Showcase, a licensing platform launched last fall, included “unreasonable terms.”
Google has faced pressure from authorities to pay for information and signed an agreement earlier this year with a group of French publishers that paves the way for it to pay for digital copyrights.
European Union regulators have also accused Apple of stifling competition in music streaming and accused Amazon of using data from independent merchants to compete unfairly with its own products. They are investigating Google’s data practices for advertising purposes and recently opened a formal antitrust investigation into Facebook’s advertising practices.
In the United States, the Department of Justice and dozens of states filed antitrust lawsuits against Google last year. They seek to prove that Google has methodically abused its power as the Internet’s primary gateway in a way that harms consumers and advertisers.
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