Google pays €220m fine to French regulator

Google is set to pay €220 to the French Competition Authority - Autorité de la concurrence – in response to allegations that the BigTech giant pursued anti-competitive practices in the online advertising space.

The regulator ruled that Google Ad Manager illegally favoured Google’s own online ad marketplace, Google AdX.

The ruling comes after the investigation first launched in 2019, following a joint complaint by Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate News Corp, French national newspaper Le Figaro, and Belgian media group Rossel La Voix.

Google has promised to improve the accessibility of Google Ad Manager for third parties.
The search giant has been stung by EU fines in the past; it was fined a record €4.34 billion for using its Android operating system to favour its own products in 2018.

BigTech’s advertising practices are due to be held up to larger scrutiny in the UK; the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) suggested in May that the UK should introduce a code to ensure BigTech provides adequate compensation to news publishers in the UK.

In February, chief executive of the CMA Andrea Coscelli said that the organisation is set to launch a series of probes into BigTech companies including Facebook, Google, and Amazon over the rest 2021.

According to statistics from eMarketer, Google controlled 28.9 per cent of the US digital advertising market in 2020, compared to Facebook's 25.2 per cent.

“The decision to fine Google is particularly significant as it is the first throughout the world to tackle complex algorithmic auction processes used for online display-advertising,” said Isabelle de Silva, head of France’s Autorité de la concurrence.

"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,” said French finance minister Bruno Le Maire. “These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned."

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