Google to adapt its ad technology after France hands it a $267 million fine

It also promised to make it easier for competitors to use its ad tools.

Charles Platiau / reuters

Google has agreed to pay a €220 million ($267 million) fine and change its ad practices after France's competition authority found it had abused its dominant online ad position. Following a 2019 complaint by News Corp. and French newspaper Le Figaro, France ruled that Google was favoring its own advertising services to the detriment of rivals.

"The decision sanctioning Google is significant because it is the first in the world to deal with the complex algorithmic auction processes used for online ads," said Isabelle de Silva, head of the Autorité de la concurrence. "The investigation... revealed how Google used its dominant position on ad servers to favor its own services over competitors on both ad servers and SSP [sell-side] platforms."

In a blog post, Google explained how it planned to change its ad rules by offering publishers "increased flexibility" by improving interoperability between its ad manager and third-party ad servers. "Also, we are reaffirming that we will not limit Ad Manager publishers from negotiating specific terms or pricing directly with other sell-side platforms."

Google's ad division has faced scrutiny from French regulators in the past. In 2019, the watchdog fined Google €150 million ($167 million) for opaque and unpredictable advertising rules after it suspended the Google Ads account of a French company without notice. Google has also clashed with regulators and publishers in the nation over the use of snippets of content in its news section.