Google to pay fine, change ad business in antitrust settlement: report

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Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is reportedly expected to pay a fine and change some business practices to settle an antitrust case with the French government over its online advertising business.

France’s Competition Authority has alleged that Google’s advertising tool DoubleClick, which online publishers use to sell ad space, gave an advantage to Google’s own online ad auction system over other companies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

To settle the charges, Google has reportedly offered to remove obstacles faced by competitors within its ad exchange. The changes would only be legally binding in France but could be adopted companywide to appease critics in other countries, according to the paper, which cited people familiar with the matter.

The alleged settlement talks come as regulators around the world have ramped up scrutiny of Google’s ad business, which brought the company about $23.7 billion in revenue last year.

Ten US states sued Google in December, accusing the company of offering Facebook special treatment in exchange for the social media site reducing competition in the advertising space, the Journal reported. Antitrust authorities in Britain and the European Union are also investigating various aspects of the company’s ad practices.

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Regulators around the world have ramped up scrutiny of Google’s ad business, which brought the company about $23.7 billion in revenue last year.
REUTERS

The French antitrust inquiry, which the government has not discussed publicly, originated with a 2019 complaint brought by News Corp., French newspaper Le Figaro and Belgian-French newspaper publisher Groupe Rossel, according to the Journal. News Corp. publishes The Post as well as the Journal.

Le Figaro removed itself from the antitrust complaint after it reached an agreement in November to license its work to Google for a fee, the Journal reported.

A settlement in the French antitrust case could reportedly be announced within weeks, although it could also be rejected by the Competition Authority’s board.

Google and News Corp. did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Le Figaro and Groupe Rossel could not be reached.

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