Competition law — 14/06/2021
Google fined € 220 million by French Competition Authority over abusive ad tech practices, Geradin Partners acting for complainant News Corp
June 7, 2021 – the French Autorité de la concurrence delivered the first-ever decision in the world establishing that Google’s ad tech practices are in breach of EU competition law. The decision was the culmination of an investigation launched after Geradin Partners filed a complaint before the Autorité on behalf of News Corp (owner of among others The Wall Street Journal and The Times) in summer 2019.
The decision was adopted within the context of a so-called “transaction procedure” available in France, according to which Google agreed not to contest the charges of the Autorité. The decision imposed on Google a fine of € 220 million and rendered binding a series of commitments proposed by Google.
The case concerns the extremely complex technologies at the heart of online display advertising, whereby publishers sell ad space to marketers on the basis of real-time auctions organized by ad tech vendors. Google is the most important ad tech vendor across each step of the ad tech value chain.
The decision establishes that Google abused its dominant position in the EEA market for publisher ad servers (where Google is active with Google Ad Manager, previously known as DoubleClick for Publishers). Google’s practices were found to have significant anticompetitive effects, to the detriment in particular of (news) publishers.
Google is currently subject to a series of investigations across the world zeroing in on the same or related practices, including an investigation by a coalition of US States led by the State of Texas. France was the first country to issue a formal decision on Google’s conduct, which is expected to set a precedent for overseas regulators and courts.
Succeeding in the case required a unique set of analytical skills considering the complexity of the sector concerned.
Geradin Partners’ Damien Geradin and Dimitrios Katsifis acted for News Corp throughout the investigation.
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