May 24, 2022

Google Settles Antitrust Case Over Advertising Practices

The French competition authority alleged Google’s advertising server gave the company’s online ad auction house an advantage in advertising auctions.



Photo:

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News

PARIS—

Alphabet Inc.’s

GOOG 1.96%

Google agreed to pay a fine of nearly $270 million as part of a settlement with French regulators of one of the first antitrust cases globally to allege the tech company abused its leading role in the digital advertising sector.

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France’s competition authority said Monday that, in addition to imposing the fine, it has accepted Google’s proposed commitments to settle the case, which include promises to make it easier for competitors to use its online-ad tools.

Google’s commitments will be binding for three years, the authority said.

A Google spokeswoman didn’t immediately have any comment. The company has previously said that its advertising-technology tools work with competitors’ products, but added that it also regularly updates its systems based on outside feedback “to better serve users and the wider ecosystem.”

While Google’s commitments are only binding in France, they could become a template for how Google will resolve similar complaints from publishers and advertising-technology rivals elsewhere—leading to changes in how Google operates its system around the world. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Google had proposed a settlement in the case.

As part of the case, the French competition authority alleged that the company’s advertising server—historically known as DoubleClick for Publishers and used by most large online publishers to put ad space up for sale—gave Google’s online ad auction house, AdX, an advantage in advertising auctions, in part by providing information about rival bids.

The authority also alleged other forms of self-preferencing between Google’s advertising-technology tools, including AdX’s offering better interoperability options to DoubleClick for Publishers.

Write to Sam Schechner at [email protected]

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