The French Competition Authority has fined Google $267 million for favoring its own advertising services and abusing its dominant position.
Google has been facing increased scrutiny for its behavior, facing lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions for alleged monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior. The French Competition Authority is the latest to hand Google a defeat, claiming the company improperly used its position in the online advertising market.
The elements in the case show that Google has implemented two distinct practices aimed at ensuring that its ad server DFP favours its platform for selling advertising space (SSP AdX) and, conversely, that its SSP AdX platform favours its ad server DFP.
One of the incriminating factors was DFP’s limited interoperability with competing ad platforms, helping to ensure a measure of lock-in to Google services.
Notably, Google did not dispute the facts, according to the Competition Authority. Instead, the company committed to making improvements aimed at improving interoperability and ending its practice of favoring itself.
The Competition Authority’s decision is also unique in the complexity of factors that were considered in reaching it.
“The decision sanctioning Google has a very special meaning because it is the first decision in the world to look into complex algorithmic auctions processes through which online display advertising works,” Isabelle de Silva, President of the Autorité de la concurrence stated. “The particularly rapid investigation revealed processes by which Google, building on its considerable dominance in ad servers for websites and applications, outperformed its competitors on both ad servers and SSP platforms. These very serious practices penalised competition in the emerging online advertising market, and allowed Google not only to maintain but also to increase its dominant position. This sanction and these commitments will make it possible to re-establish a level playing field for all players, and the ability for publishers to make the most of their advertising space.”
The decision will likely serve as a precedent for other cases the company is facing.