On 7 June 2021, the French Competition Authority (ADLC) fined Google EUR 220 million ($268 million) for abusing its dominant position in the markets for online display advertising. This is the first decision by a European competition enforcer sanctioning Google for conducts in the ad tech industry; in which the ADLC demonstrates a deep understanding of complex ad tech issues. The French ADLC decision comes at a time of increased scrutiny with respect to online advertising globally, with multiple antitrust investigations and legislative proposals on-going in the U.S., Europe, the U.K. or Australia.
In its Decision, the ADLC concluded that Google’s publisher ad server illegally favoured Google’s supply-side platform (SSP), by providing it with superior information on its rivals’ prices and allowing it to better price discriminate across impressions. The ADLC also found that Google’s SSP illegally favoured Google’s publisher ad server by imposing technical and contractual limitations on rival ad servers. The ADLC concluded that both conducts had limited the ability of rival SSPs and publisher ad server to compete with Google’s intermediation services. Google did not contest the conducts and offered a series of commitments designed to restore a better level of competition in ad tech markets. These include in particular greater interoperability between its own solutions and third-party ad servers and ad exchanges/SSPs.
A CRA team including Oliver Latham, Mikaël Hervé, Romain Bizet, Emma Gaillat and Federico Etro advised one of the lead complainants. The CRA team provided the ADLC with both quantitative analyses of ad auction dynamics and theoretical economic modelling work of Google’s conducts to inform its Decision.
For more details, please see the ADLC’s press release here.