Anticompetitive practices: fines are raining down on Google in 2021

The Competition Authority ended 2021 with 30 contentious decisions for anti-competitive practices and 873.7 million euros in fines on the counter.

According to its annual report, Google was sanctioned up to 720 million euros over the year. This is the heaviest fine imposed last year by the French regulator against a company. The Mountain View firm has been at the heart of two major investigations into neighboring rights and online advertising.

Two fines for Google

The dispute over related rights ended in June 2022, after two years of proceedings. In April 2020, the Competition Authority had first imposed on Google to negotiate in good faith with online press publishers the remuneration for the recovery of their content.

But a year later, the Authority fined Google 500 million euros for failing to comply with its previous injunctions. The regulator ended up accepting Google’s commitments last June.

The second fine for the tech giant is 220 million euros. It sanctions Google’s position on the French online advertising market. The Autorité de la concurrence considered that Google had abused its dominant position on the market for advertising servers for publishers of websites and mobile applications.

Digital under high surveillance

Whether in terms of merger control or litigation, the Autorité de la concurrence records “an increase in cases relating to new technologies, online services or practices emanating from large digital companies”, indicates Benoît Cœuré, President of the Competition Authority, in the report. In 2021, the institution thus intervened three times in the telecommunications sector and seven times in the media and digital field, which makes them the most controlled sectors.

Digital will still remain under close surveillance this year, promises the Competition Authority in its roadmap for 2022-2023. To act more quickly on these themes, in 2020 the institution set up a specialized department made up of engineers, data science experts and lawyers. “This team will be strengthened if necessary, but we also need to increase our collective efficiency,” commented Benoît Cœuré.

At the time when the roadmap is published, the Autorité recalls that a sector inquiry is still in progress on cloud computing. Its conclusions are expected for the beginning of 2023. The French institution has also indicated that it will prepare with the European Commission the entry into force of the Digital Markets Act, which should take place in a few months, to “put take advantage of all the new possibilities offered by this text in complementarity with its contentious action and control of concentrations”.

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