Google settles with the French competition watchdog and will pay a fine of 220 million euros. According to the watchdog, Google abused its dominant position in the advertising market. The company says it wants to improve its business worldwide.
The Autorité de la concurrence says Google gave preferential treatment to its own systems within Google Ad Manager. Specifically, it concerns the Doubleclick DFP Ad Server and the Doubleclick AdExchange SSP AdX auction platform that allow site and application publishers to sell advertising space. According to the authority, Google gives preferential treatment to these two systems, to the detriment of companies that offer competing ad server and auction systems.
DFP and SSP AdX are two separate platforms. DFP allows publishers to sell advertising space on a site or in an app and must provide insight into the best offer on supply side platform advertising platforms. Those SSPs are marketplaces where automated advertisements are auctioned. According to the competition authority, publishers usually use one ad server as a DFP, in order to be able to see the best bid on multiple SSPs.
However, Google’s SSP AdX and DFP worked together, so the two services continuously showed each other as the best choice, according to the authority. For example, DFP communicated with AdX which was the best price among competing SSPs. In this way, AdX could ‘optimize’ the bids so that AdX would emerge as the best platform. AdX did this by adjusting the requested commission on advertisements.
At the same time, according to the authority, AdX only partially cooperated with DFP’s competitors. For example, competing ad servers were not allowed to host bidding competitions between AdX and competing SSPs.
Google also used other practices that harmed competitors, but these two practices were the most notable, according to the authority. The authority writes that these practices took place in a growing market and that they hindered competitors from growing with the market themselves. Competing ad servers and SSPs became less attractive due to Google’s activities within the Ad manager. This allowed Google to grow its market share considerably, the authority writes.
This was detrimental not only to competing advertising platforms, but also to media companies that use the platforms to generate revenue, according to the authority. This way they couldn’t get the best deal from SSPs, for example because of the less competition from SSPs due to Google’s practices. Several media companies complained to the authority about Google’s practices and prompted the authority to investigate Google.
Google does not dispute the ruling of the authority and settles with the authority for the million-dollar fine. In addition, the company says it is improving interoperability between Google Ad Manager services with other advertising services. Google has said that third-party SSPs will have access to more auction information, that these SSPs should be given the contractual freedom to enter into special deals with publishers, and that AdX will no longer use competitors’ prices to improve its own bids. without other SSPs being able to do the same. Google also guarantees technical stability for both third-party SSPs and publishers and says that publishers using third-party ad servers will have real-time access to AdX.
Because of the settlement, Google is obliged to put these promises into effect for three years, the authority writes. Google wants to demonstrate with an independent counselor that these promises are being implemented. The authority will also be informed by this confidential adviser. Google says it will also implement ‘part of’ these measures worldwide.