France Fined Google €220 Million for Unfair Advertising Partnership Practices

By Bill Toulas / June 8, 2021

The Autorité de la Concurrence, which is the French Competition Authority, has fined Google €220 million ($268 million) for engaging in unfair practices in relation to its advertising partners, favoring some publishers while putting others at a disadvantage. The relevant announcement points out that Google never disputed the facts and actually opted to settle with the Autorité, so the amount is the result of an agreement between the two. Moreover, Google has promised to do better, changing its advertising service DFP and its sales platform AdX function.

These two are ad tech tools enabling publishers and website operators in general to auction impressions to advertisers and marketers, thus making the most out of their platform. However, and as the French anti-trust investigation showed, Google abused its dominant position to keep competing advertisers lower in the preference of the serving algorithm and instead promoted itself and its own financial gains. This didn’t only help Google maintain its dominance but also further cement it.

The French bash Google for not accepting to follow fair competition practices but accept that the tech giant will try to do better from now on. Google has announced some changes to its ad technology which will increase access to data, increase the level of transparency around how the ad system works - and most importantly, increase interoperability with rival advertiser platforms.

We should also point out that this is the first time an anti-competition authority looked deep into how Google’s complex online display advertising works. Considering that the investigation lasted only two years, it was completed much quicker than we would expect. Of course, Autorité will continue to monitor Google and evaluate how strictly the firm’s operations are bound to the commitments made as part of this settlement.

Back in December 2019, the same authority in France imposed a penalty of €150 million to Google again for serving users with ads that may not be compatible with their interests. As the investigation had revealed back then, Google Ads were operating in a confusing, opaque, and almost random way, while elements of unfair practices were identified back then too.

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