Google said it would amend its global advertising business to guarantee it did not abuse its dominance, bowing to antitrust pressure for the first time in a landmark settlement with French authorities.
The agreement with the French competition watchdog could help rebalance the power over advertising in favor of publishers, which dominated the business in the pre-internet era but lost control with the fast rise of Google and Facebook.
The settlement, which was announced on Monday and also saw Google fined $268 million, is the first time Google has agreed to make changes to its huge advertising business, which brings in the bulk of its revenue.
“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,” said France’s antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva.
The watchdog found that Google’s ad management platform for large publishers – Google Ad Manager – favored the company’s own online ad marketplace – Google AdX – where publishers sell space to advertisers in real-time.
Ad Manager provided AdX with strategic data such as the winning bidding prices, while AdX also enjoyed privileged access to requests made by advertisers via Google’s ad services, the authority said.
AdX, in turn, exchanged data more smoothly with Ad Manager than it did with other advertising management platforms, the watchdog added. Such platforms are crucial for publishers to manage and sell advertising space.
Under the terms of the settlement, Google committed to enhance the way Ad Manager services worked with rival ad servers and ad space sales platforms, the French watchdog said. Some changes would be applied by the first quarter of 2022, it said, adding that Google would not appeal the decision.
Google also said it had agreed to make it easier for publishers to use its data and tools.
“We will be examining and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” the company added.