Google is set to settle an antitrust case in France, alleging the company has abused its power in online advertising, and is likely to pay a fine and make operational changes, people familiar with the matter have said. .
The French case, which has not been disclosed before, is one of the most advanced in the world when it comes to Google’s dominance as a provider of tools to buy and sell ads on the web.
In connection with this case, the French Competition Authority alleged that the company’s ad server – historically known as DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) and used by most major online publishers to sell advertising spaces – gave an edge to Google’s online auction house, AdX. against other auction operators, the people said.
The authority also alleged other forms of self-preference between Google’s ad technology tools, they added.
To pay for the French fees, Google offered to improve AdX’s interoperability with ad servers run by other companies and remove some other obstacles faced by competitors, some people said.
The settlement has yet to be approved by the authority’s board, which could reject the deal, the people said. If approved, the settlement could be announced in the coming weeks, they said.
As part of the settlement, Google would not accept or deny the guilt, the people said. Its proposed changes would only be binding in France, but could be adopted more broadly by the company, some people familiar with the matter said.
Google merged DFP and AdX into a single product named Google Ad Manager in 2018.
Google declined to comment on the matter. “Our third-party advertising technology products work with products from our partners and competitors, including more than 700 advertiser platforms and 80 publisher platforms,” said a spokesperson. “We continue to take feedback and make updates to better serve users and the wider ecosystem,” she said.
Google’s activity of negotiating the sale of ads, which was part of a business that accounted for 13% of Alphabet’s $ 182.53 billion in total revenue last year, has been a source of headaches. head with antitrust regulators.
A Texas-led group of US states sued Google in December for allegedly operating a digital advertising monopoly. The UK competition authority launched an investigation in January to determine whether Google’s plan to remove user tracking tools called “cookies” from its Chrome browser could hurt competition in the online advertising industry. The European Commission, the EU’s main antitrust regulator, has also investigated Google’s advertising activity.
Publishers and ad technology rivals have complained for years that Google has the market-leading tools for buying, selling and auctioning ads, as well as its role as the owner and operator of its ads. own advertising products such as search and YouTube. creates a conflict of interest that harms competition in online advertising.
The French case stems from a complaint brought to the authority in 2019 by News Corp, the French national newspaper Le Figaro and Belgian media company Groupe Rossel, which owns several French newspapers, according to two people familiar with the matter.
In November, Le Figaro joined a group of French newspapers which agreed to license their content to Google for a fee. Le Figaro is no longer involved in the complaint in the French case, the people said.
Marc feuillee, general manager of Le Figaro The publisher Groupe Figaro, confirmed that his newspaper was one of the first plaintiffs, adding that the company had withdrawn from the case “because our priority was to negotiate our content rights with Google, rather than pursue the advertising complaint ”.
Thierry Hugot, marketing and sales director of Rossel, confirmed that his company was among the plaintiffs in France, but declined to comment further “because the case will be concluded in the coming weeks”.
News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, also made a pact with Google to get paid for its content, but remains the main plaintiff in the case, people familiar with the matter said. News Corp has not actively cooperated with the French authority since it signed its business deal with Google in February, one of the people said.
“We are delighted with the progress made in our global agreement with Google, which we believe recognizes the value of our content and provides a solid framework for a lasting and rewarding partnership in the years to come,” said James Kennedy, spokesperson. word of News Corp.
News Corp has always been a vocal critic of Google’s role in the ad technology industry. The company filed a complaint with Australian regulators in March 2019 outlining a host of allegations that Google’s buying and selling tools favored each other in an anti-competitive manner.
The French authority had signaled its interest in the potentially anti-competitive behavior of large technology companies in what it called the “advertising intermediation” sector, by producing a report on the subject in 2018.
The French authority spent about a year investigating the case and last fall accused Google of competition violations, two of those familiar with the matter said. Google then offered to settle the claim, they said. The company has discussed the solutions with the authority, and a hearing on the proposed settlement was held earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said.