Google fined €220m by French antitrust regulator

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·2-min read
A view of Google logo at the entrance to Google's European headquarters building on Barrow Street, in Dublin's Grand Canal area. 
On Saturday, 8 May 2021, in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Google has promised to change its business practices in online advertising in response to the move. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google (GOOGL) has been slapped with a €220m (£189m, $268m) fine by France’s antitrust regulator after being accused of abusing its power, opening the door for similar disciplinary action for other tech giants.

France’s competition authority accused Google on Monday of unfairly sending business to its own services, and discriminating against its rivals, who suffered as a result.

Google has promised to change its business practices in online advertising in response to the move. The landmark fine was the first of its kind, and is the first time a US tech company has agreed to alter its advertising business, which brings in the bulk of its revenue.

"The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it's the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies," said France's antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva.

Google makes the majority of its sales from searches and YouTube ads, but said it would improve the way its Ad Manager services worked with rival servers and ad sales platforms.

Watch: Google to alter ad practices, France imposes fine

Ad Manager provided AdX with strategic data such as the winning bidding prices, while AdX also enjoyed privileged access to requests made by advertisers via Google's ad services, the authority said.

The French watchdog confirmed that Google would not be appealing the decision, and that some of the changes will be made in the first quarter of 2022.

French finance minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the move, saying “these are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned.”

"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," he added.

Read more: Google offers UK unemployed free tech skills training

It follows a number of news organisations filing a complaint against Google in 2019, including News Corp, French news publishing group Le Figaro, and Belgian press group Rossel.

The decision also opened the doors for a crackdown on other tech companies such as Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB), which are already under scrutiny from regulators, who are concerned they are abusing their size and dominance over the market to favour themselves.

Last week, Facebook was hit by two antitrust probes from regulators in the UK and Europe, while the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a probe into Google and Apple since it became an independent regulator in its own rights in January after Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Watch: Facebook's Marketplace in antitrust crosshairs

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