Google has been fined 220 million euros ($268 million) by France’s antitrust watchdog for what the organization describes as abuse of Google’s position in online advertising. There is, of course, nothing new to the allegation that Google engages in anti-competitive – some would even say monopolistic – practices when it comes to how the company handles its advertising business, uses data collected on billions of users every day and how the company takes advantage of all the devices which run on its free Android operating system.
The big news here is the size of the fine, the largest leveled against Google to date. But many would say that this is nothing but chump change to the multi-billion dollar behemoth.
The fine, however, could worry Google as it is under similar scrutiny in the U.S. where anti-trust suits have already been filed. Last December, Google and Facebook were sued by ten U.S. States who accuse the two tech titans of colluding over online advertising. The antitrust suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Texas and alleges that Google entered into an agreement with Facebook where the social media giant would not compete head to head with Goggle in exchange for special deals for Google ads. In this way Google ensured that Facebook would not develop its own competing advertising system.
In March, a lawsuit accusing Google of tracking its users even while they are in the incognito mode was upheld by a court. The class action lawsuit filed against Google last year accuses the company of violating Federal laws against wiretapping. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California rejected an attempt by Google to have the lawsuit thrown out.
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Google will pay a €220 million fine and make changes to its huge online advertising business as part of an antitrust settlement with French regulators. https://t.co/nKeZAhR2Y3
— CNN International (@cnni) June 7, 2021
In a statement the French Competition Authority called this decision a significant one. It said, that, “Following referrals from News Corp Inc., the Le Figaro 1 group and the Rossel La Voix group, the Competition Authority is today issuing a decision sanctioning Google, up to 220 million euros, for having abused its dominant position in the market for ad servers for website publishers and mobile applications.”
The Authority added that it had determined 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 spaces advertising), and its sales platform SSP AdX (which organizes the auction process allowing publishers to sell their “impressions” or advertising inventories to advertisers) to the detriment of its competitors and publishers.”
Google issued a statement of its own saying, “Over the past two years, we have been working with the French Competition Authority (FCA) to answer their questions about our advertising technology, and more specifically about Google Ad Manager, our publisher platform.”
The statement, written by Maria Gomri, Legal Director, Google France, explained that Google believes that the company has offered the publice valuable services and competes on the merits. “We are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products,” she pledged.
Google states that it has 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.” To that end Google pledged in the statement that the company will be” testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally.”
Google further pledges to offer increased access to data, increased flexibility, and reiterated that it is committed to transparency.