On 14 December 2010, following a request by the French Minister
for Economy Finance and Employment to investigate the online
advertising sector, the French Competition Authority (the
'Authority') issued an opinion stating that it considers
Google holds a dominant position on the online advertising market
linked to search engines.
Given the central position of online search engines, various
operators have expressed a number of concerns against Google; some
of them alleging that Google undertook unfair or illegal practices.
These allegations include:
competing search engines alleging that Google's power
results from its attempts to close off markets;
advertisers or Internet site editors complaining about
Google's arbitrary and opaque practices; and
the press, which is a customer, partner, competitor and
potential supplier of Google, considering that it has been the
subject of free riding and predatory pricing.
The Authority considers that Google holds a dominant position on
the specific market for search-related online advertising which it
believes forms a relevant market in itself and is not substitutable
with any other forms of communication. The Authority however
stresses that dominance is not an issue in itself and that it is
only the abuse of market power that could be condemned under
Competition Law. It further notes that Google's dominant
position results from a great deal of innovation, supported by
significant and continuous investments.
As part of its analysis of the search-related online advertising
market, the Authority sets out several types of conduct that may
infringe competition law. These include (i) possible exclusionary
conduct intended to discourage, delay or eliminate competitors and
(ii) possible exploitative abuses whereby search engines would
impose exorbitant conditions on its partners or customers. The
Authority stresses however that it is providing its opinion on a
consultative basis only and that it is not taking any position on
the legality of any such practices as this would require further
The Authority further recommends that the legal obligations of
transparency of the press sector should be applied to online
In the event that Google's actions require to be sanctioned,
the Authority concludes that Competition Law could be relied upon
without it being necessary to implement a sector-wide
To view Community Week, Issue 502 – 17 December 2010
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