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Google, France hone in on antitrust ads deal

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Google parent Alphabet on Tuesday outshined dim earnings expectations, showing higher revenue and profits despite a coronavirus-induced slowdown in its core digital advertising operations in March. PHOTO: Getty images

Google is close to a settlement with French antitrust authorities over allegations of abusing its power in online advertising which could lead to operational modifications and a fine, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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France’s Competition Authority has alleged the US tech giant’s online ad auction house AdX enjoyed a built-in advantage over other auction operators with most major online publishers using Google’s advertising server DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) to sell ad space.

In 2019 several media organisations including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp — which owns the WSJ — French daily Le Figaro and Belgian media company Groupe Rossel filed a complaint, although Le Figaro is no longer involved in the action.

Google’s platforms, which merged in 2018, are world leaders in programmatic and digital advertising and marketing.

The French competition authority has yet to approve the upcoming deal, the WSJ reported, but it is expected to see Google agree to pay a fine and also ramp up inter-operability of its ad platforms in France with competitor platforms.

Faced with a “quasi-monopolistic situation” on the ads market “we need regulation because today we are not defending ourselves with the same weapons and this poses a real problem,” Rossel’s commercial and marketing director Thierry Hugot told AFP.

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Contacted by AFP the competition authority made no comment on Friday’s report.

“Our third-party ad tech products work with both our partners’ and our competitors’ products, including over 700 advertiser platforms and 80 publisher platforms,” said a Google spokesperson in a statement to AFP.

“We invest in this business because of the role it plays in supporting access to ad-supported content online. We continue to take in feedback and make updates to better serve users and the wider ecosystem,” the spokesperson added.

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, made $55.31 billion in sales in the first quarter, much of that stemming from online advertising. But the tech behemoth is facing a number of cases over its dominance of the global online ads market on competition grounds.

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