Google to pay $270 million in fine, change some business practices to settle antitrust charges in France

Google agreed to pay roughly $270 million in fines and change some of its business practices as part of a settlement announced Monday with French antitrust regulators who had accused the company of abusing its dominance of the online advertising market.

The agreement was one of the first times an antitrust regulator had taken direct aim at Google’s online advertising infrastructure, a platform that scores of websites worldwide rely on to sell ads.

The fine is a pittance compared with Google’s overall business — its parent entity, Alphabet, earned $41 billion last year — but French authorities hailed the concessions from the company because they affect technology and practices at the heart of its business.

Image: AP

In the United States, Google faces similar antitrust scrutiny over its online advertising technology from a group of state attorneys general, as well as from Britain’s antitrust regulator.

Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, heralded the agreement.

“It is essential to apply our competition rules to the digital giants who operate in our country,” he said. The accusations of abuse of the advertising technology are “serious,” he added, “and they have been rightly punished.”

French competition regulators said Google used its position as the world’s largest internet advertising company to hurt news publishers and other sellers of internet ads. Authorities said a service owned by the Silicon Valley giant and used by others to sell ads across the internet gave Google’s business an advantage, undercutting competition.

As part of the settlement, French authorities said Google agreed to end the practice of giving its services preferential treatment and to change its advertising system so that it would work more easily with other services.

Google did not admit to wrongdoing in the settlement, but the case may show how the company might appease regulators elsewhere. Google agreed to make more data available to rivals and make it easier for them to use its online advertising services.

An independent monitor, paid by Google, will also be in charge of making sure the company abides by the terms of the settlement.

“While we believe we offer valuable services and compete on the merits, we are committed to working proactively with regulators everywhere to make improvements to our products,” Maria Gomri, legal director for Google France, wrote in a blog post.

Adam Satariano [c.2021 The New York Times Company]

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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