Google's antitrust problems are nothing new. The company's acquisition of Fitbit was investigated by the European Commission (EC) in 2020 and it was eventually cleared. In the same year, a lawsuit accusing Google of monopolistic behavior was also filed by the United States Department of Justice. The list goes on and on.
Now, the tech giant has agreed to improve its ad practices after reaching a €220 million (~$268 million) settlement with France's antitrust watchdog.
Reuters reports that investigation began after a French news publishing group filed a complaint against Google. France's antitrust authority found out that Google's ad management platform Google Ad Manager is biased towards AdX, which is the tech giant's own marketplace for ads. Publishers utilize this platform to sell ad space to advertisers in real time.
The investigation determined that winning bids for ad spaces were shared with Google Ad Manager. AdX also offered better interoperability with Google Ad Manager compared to platforms owned by rivals.
Following the results of this investigation, Google has decided to reach a settlement with the French antitrust authority. As a part of this settlement, the tech giant will have to improve its ad services to offer better interoperability with other platforms, and will also pay a €220 million (~$268 million) fine. The antitrust authority's chief Isabelle de Silva highlighted that the fine could have been higher had Google not agreed to a settlement, saying that:
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.
Google does not plan to appeal this decision in court. More importantly, this settlement opens the doors for rival publishers to seek damages from Google in light of the watchdog's findings.