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Google reaches $270 million settlement in French antitrust case

Google reaches $270 million settlement in French antitrust case
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Google agreed to pay a fine of $270 million and make changes to its online ad tools in a settlement with French regulators announced Monday.

France’s competition watchdog investigation had focused on Google’s alleged abuse of its leading role in the digital advertising sector.

Google did not dispute the facts of the case and opted to settle while proposing changes, according to the Competition Authority.

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"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," Isabelle de Sila, the authority’s chief, said in a statement.

Google France’s legal director said that the commitments made will make it easier for ad publishers to use the platform’s data and tools. An independent observer will be assigned to monitor Google’s compliance.

And while the changes are only binding in France, Maria Gomri said Google will be testing its tweaks “over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally.”

The settlement announced Monday is one of the first by a tech giant in an antitrust case. It’s also the first time Google has agreed to make changes to its advertising business.

The competition watchdog determined that Google’s ad management platform for larger publishers favored the company’s own online ad marketplace.

The two platforms — Ad Manager and AdX — provided strategic data to each other, giving them both advantages.

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Google made five commitments as part of the settlement, the authority said, including no longer allowing AdX to use competitors' bids to optimize its own and sharing data with rival ad servers.

Google’s ad businesses, which made up almost 13 percent of Alphabet’s revenue last year, has been the subject of scrutiny in the U.S. as well.

Two separate groups of state attorneys general are currently pursuing antitrust investigations that touch on Google’s ad tech dominance.