Google Pays $270 Million to Settle Antitrust Charges in France

The tech giant, which is facing similar scrutiny in the U.S., said it would make changes to increase transparency of its online ad systems as part of the settlement.


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Google will pay $270 million to settle antitrust charges in France over its ad technology.

The Google logo on a building in Paris’s La Defense business and financial district. Google said it would make changes to increase the transparency of its online advertising systems.Credit…Charles Platiau/Reuters

June 7, 2021, 7:00 a.m. ET

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

The French competition authority said the agreement was the first time 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 pittance compared to Google’s overall business — its parent company, Alphabet, earned $41 billion last year — but the French authorities hailed the concessions they got from Google because they affect technology and practices at the heart of the company’s business.

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

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 that a service owned by the Silicon Valley giant and used by others to sell advertising across the internet gave Google’s business preferential treatment, 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.

Among the companies that complained to French authorities about Google was News Corp., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and the French publisher Rossel La Voix Group, the competition authority said.

Google did not admit to wrongdoing, but said in a statement that it would make changes to increase transparency of its online advertising systems and make the technology more interoperable with other services.

The changes apply only in France, but Google said some might eventually be rolled out globally.

Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, embraced 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.”

Liz Alderman contributed reporting.

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