France’s competition watchdog, L’autorité de la Concurrence, has fined Google up to €220 million (~$268M) in a case related to self-preference within the adtech market, which the watchdog found was a major threat to website publishers and ad servers for mobile applications by Google. The situation has been misused.
l’autorite Launched an investigation into Google’s edtech business after complaints from several French publishers.
Today it said that Google had requested a settlement – and is “not disputing the facts of the matter” – with the tech giant proposing certain ‘interoperability’ commitments that the regulator has accepted, and which are part of the decision. will be a binding part.
The watchdog called the action the first in the world to investigate Google’s complex algorithmic ad auctions.
Commenting in a statement, l’autorite’President ofhandjob Isabel de Silva said: “The decision to approve Google has a very special meaning as it is the first decision in the world to look at complex algorithmic processes. The auction through which online display advertising works. The investigation, in particular quickly revealed the processes by which Google, relying on its dominant position on ad servers for sites and applications, favored its competitors on both ad servers and SSP platforms. The emerging online advertising market has penalized competition, and has enabled Google to not only preserve but also enhance its dominant position. This acceptance and these commitments restore an equal opportunity for all players and allow publishers to access their advertising space. will make it possible to restore the ability to take maximum advantage of the
The specific issue is the preferential treatment given by Google to its proprietary technologies – offered under the Google Ads Manager brand – on both the demand and supply sides; through the operation of its DFP ad server (which allows publishers of sites and applications to sell their space ads), and its sales platform SSP AdX (which allows publishers to sell their ‘impressions’ or ad inventory to advertisers) The giver organizes the auction process), according to Sentinel.
l’autorite found that Google’s preferential treatment of its edtech harmed competitors and publishers.
Reached for comment, a Google spokesperson referred us to in this blog post discussing the agreement where Google France legal director Maria Gomery writes that it is “a set of commitments to make it easier for publishers to access data”. and use our tool in conjunction with other advertising technologies” – before detailing the steps it will take.
The publishing groups that made the original complaints against Google in France were News Corp Inc., the Le Figaro Group and the Rossel La Voix Group, although Le Figaro withdrew its referral last November – the same time it signed a content-licensing deal. Were. As with Google, related to Google’s News Showcase product (a vehicle that Google has adopted as legislators in various markets around the world have taken steps to force them to pay for the reuse of certain content) .
France’s competition watchdog had previously ordered Google to negotiate with publishers over remuneration for the reuse of their content, following the move to a national law of updated, pan-EU copyright rules – which are similar to publishers’ news snippets. Extends neighbor rights. So the edtech giant’s operations are being scrutinized on that front as well.
Google agrees to interoperability changes
Google has agreed to improve the interoperability of Google Ads Manager services with third-party ad servers and ad space sales platform solutions. l’autorite, as well as agreeing to waive those provisions which are in its favor.
“The practices in question are particularly serious because they have punished Google’s competitors in the SSP market and publishers of sites and mobile applications,” it writes in a press release (translated from French with Google Translate). “Including, press groups – those who were [the source] In terms of authority – were affected, even though their economic model is also greatly weakened by declining paper subscription sales and declining affiliate advertising revenue.
l’autorite confirms that it has accepted Google’s commitments – and makes them binding in its decision. Commitments will be mandatory for a period of three years as per the agreement.
The commitments Google has offered reveal some of the operational details that have emerged through a Texas antitrust lawsuit also targeting Google’s edtech.
Earlier this year, documents emerged through the suit that appeared to show that the tech giant operated a secret program that allegedly used data from previous bids in its digital ad exchange, according to the WSJ. , used its own ad-buying system to give it an advantage over competitors – Joe pointed out that the so-called ‘Project Bernanke’ program was not disclosed to publishers who sold ads through Google’s exchange.
In the area of data access, Google has committed to l’autorite To design a solution to ensure that all shoppers who use Google Ads Manager to participate in their Ad Exchange have equal access to data from its auctions – “they should be able to collect ad space from publishers”. To help you buy efficiently”. This includes when publishers use an off-platform technique called ‘header bidding’ (which enables publishers to run auctions between multiple ad exchanges, but which, consequently, means how Google operates). Such buyers may suffer data loss as compared to those participating through Google’s own platform).
Google claims that it is “generally not technically possible” to identify participants in header bidding auctions, and thus it cannot share data with those buyers. But it’s now committed to building a solution that “ensures that all buyers with whom the publisher works, including those who participate in header bidding, are able to access the results of the Ads Manager auction.” have equal access to the relevant data”.
It notes that “in particular” it would be “providing information around the ‘minimum bid to win’ from previous auctions”, which would further address a disadvantageous blind-spot for publishers seeking to earn more. Taking an off-platform route to try. advertising revenue.
Another commitment from Google to the French watchdog is a pledge to increase the flexibility for publishers to use its Ads Manager product – including allowing them to set custom pricing rules for ads in sensitive categories and between Ads Manager and third parties. Involves implementing product changes aimed at improving interactivity. -party ad server.
Google also writes that it is “confirming” that it will not limit Ads Manager publishers from directly negotiating specific terms or pricing with other sell-side platforms (SSPs); and states that it is committed to continuing to provide controls for publishers to include or exclude certain purchasers at their discretion when using their product.
The third batch of commitments focus on transparency – and edtech’s ambiguity has long been a core criticism of the market, including the competitive dimension because obscure workings by major platforms can be used to spot abusive practices. (Actually, l’autorite In December 2019, Google fined Google $166M for its advertising platform, Google Ads, as “opaque and difficult to understand” rules and for applying them “in an unfair and random manner”.)
On transparency, Google has pledged not to use data from other SSPs to optimize bids in its own exchange so that other SSPs cannot reproduce. It also states that it is promising any Ad Manager auction participants not to share any bids with any other auction participant prior to the completion of the auction.
In addition, we will give publishers at least three months’ notice of major changes that require significant implementation effort that publishers must adopt, unless they are related to security or privacy protections. or are not required by law,” it further notes.
commitments made to l’autorite This will apply to how Google operates its adtech in the French market—but is also set to apply more broadly.
“We will be testing and developing these changes in the coming months before they are implemented more widely,” Gomery said in a blog post.
l’autoriteThe action comes after years of focus on the online advertising market.
Back in 2018 it published a report that looked at the many competitive advantages Facebook and Google enjoy, looking at how Monopoly’s ad targeting offerings benefit from their leadership position in related markers and the resulting network effects. ; and their vertical integration model (playing in both publishing and technical arbitrage); As well as having both evolved from a ‘logged’ environment requiring users to be logged in to access ‘free’ services – giving them other competitive advantages as well as powering their ad targeting products Providing access to high volumes of sociological and behavioral data.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has also conducted an online advertising market study in recent years – the findings of which are outlining a ‘pro-competition’ regulatory reform, now targeted at tech giants with a ‘strategic market position’. What will happen in future. be subject to a prior arrangement of customs requirements for the purpose of preventing market abuse.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has issued several antitrust enforcements against Google’s business in recent years – including a $1.7BN fine in 2019 related to its search ad broking business, AdSense, and $2.7BN for its price comparison service, Google Shopping. includes fines. Back in 2017, to name two.
Recently, EU regulators have been reported to further investigate Google’s edtech practices. So further interventions may be forthcoming.
Although the Commission’s preferred approach is not to implement specific measures itself – nor to obtain specific commitments, beyond the general need, not to perpetuate accepted abuse (or any equivalent behaviour) – it appears That has failed to move the needle, certainly where Google’s market dominance is concerned. .
Nevertheless, EU lawmakers’ experience with Google anti-trust cases has certainly informed the recent pan-EU plan for a set of pre-emptive rules to be applied to digital ‘gatekeepers’ – digital markets. covered by the Act, which was introduced by Brussels last December.