Google fined R3.6bn as France tackles big tech’s abuse of power in advertising

Google agreed to pay 220 million euros (about R3.6 billion) to settle a French antitrust probe over its abuse of power in online advertising.

The French Competition Authority said Google has been unfairly sending business to its advertising server and its online-ad auction house, to the detriment of rivals.

In addition to the fine, Google promised to remedy the situation by improving the interoperability of its Google Ad Manager services for third parties.

“The decision fining Google is particularly significant as it is the first throughout the world to tackle complex algorithmic auction processes used for online display-advertising,” Isabelle de Silva, who heads France’s Autorité de la concurrence, said in a statement on Monday.

With separate cases into Google, Apple and Facebook, French antitrust regulators are starting to rein in anti-competitive behavior in online advertising. While Google’s case ended with a fine, Facebook last week tried to avoid that by making commitments to placate regulators.

The Google case stems from a complaint lodged in 2019 by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, French newspaper Le Figaro and Belgian media group Rossel La Voix.

It’s not the first time Google has attracted French antitrust scrutiny over online advertising after a 150 million-euro fine in 2019. The search engine also risks a penalty in the coming weeks over suspicions it failed to comply with an order relating to its news service.

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