Google said it would make changes to its global advertising business to ensure it did not abuse its dominance, bowing to antitrust pressure for the first time in a landmark settlement with French authorities.
The deal with the French competition watchdog could help rebalance the power over advertising in favour of publishers, which held sway over the business in the pre-internet era but lost control with the rapid rise of Google and Facebook.
The settlement, announced on Monday and included a fine of 220 million euros ($268 million), was the first time the U.S. tech giant had agreed to make changes to its ads business, which brings in the bulk of its revenue.
“The decision to sanction Google is of particular significance because it’s the first decision in the world focusing on the complex algorithmic auction processes on which the online ad business relies,” said France’s antitrust chief Isabelle de Silva.
The French settlement alone may not meaningfully affect industry market share, according to ad-supported media companies and Google’s advertising rivals. But they hope it inspires similar antitrust cases in the United States and other jurisdictions.
“This decision is a key milestone to re-energize competition and innovation in the ad tech space, and publishers, who are the primary victims of Google practices, will ultimately benefit from it, but the battle is only beginning,” said Arnaud Creput, chief executive of Smart, which provides ad tech to publishers.
France’s case did not address, for example, Google’s control of its dominant search and YouTube properties to thwart competition. It also did not discuss user privacy curbs Google is to introduce on the web that could benefit it at the expense of competitors.
Instead, the watchdog focused on the ties between Google Ad Manager, used by publishers to auction ad space, and Google AdX, one of several marketplaces which can manage auctions.
Google grew the market share of both services by sharing strategic data across them and barring them from operating as smoothly as rival systems, the authority said.
The privileged relationship “deprived” publishers from benefiting from potential industry competition, it said.
Under the terms of the settlement, Google committed for three years to level the playing field better for AdX with an independent trustee monitoring the situation, the French watchdog said. Some changes would be implemented by the first quarter of 2022, it said, adding that Google would not appeal the decision.
“We will be testing and developing these changes over the coming months before rolling them out more broadly, including some globally,” the company added.
The ad practices of tech giants, whose success relies on the trove of data they have amassed over the years, have infuriated many publishers globally. The French antitrust authority said its decision opened the way for publishers who felt disadvantaged to seek damages from Google.
Most of Google’s sales come from search and YouTube ads. But last year about $23 billion was tied to helping publishers sell ads, drawing antitrust scrutiny to the connections between Google’s businesses, plus calls from some critics to break up the company.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire welcomed the watchdog decision.
“The practices put in place by Google to favour its own advertising technologies have affected press groups, whose business model is heavily dependent on ad revenues,” he said.
“These are serious practices and they have been rightly sanctioned.”
It launched its investigation in 2019 following a complaint from News Corp, French news publishing group Le Figaro and Belgian press group Rossel.
News Corp struck a global news deal with Google in February, one of the most extensive deals of its kind with big tech.
“We haven’t been involved in the case in France since we concluded our deal with Google in February, but we remain pleased by the progress of our global partnership and are hopeful for a long and fruitful relationship in the years ahead,” a News Corp spokesman said.
TeamApt Transactions Hit N1.4T In May
Nigeria’s one of Nigeria’s leading fintech companies, Teamapt said it transacted N1.4 trillion ($3.5billion) value in 68 million transactions volume in May 2021 on its agency banking platform.
The data sourced from the monthly report of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to promote agency banking and mobile money in the country, shows that Teamapt controls 74 percent of the total agency banking operations within the period.
The company which is currently leading Nigeria’s agency banking industry provides financial services for the underserved mass market through Moniepoint – its financial access product, and Monnify – its payment gateway infrastructure.
At a media briefing on Thursday in Lagos, officials of Teamapt revealing more of its transaction figures and financial performance for the past months said in less than two years, the company has grown rapidly to operate the largest agency banking platform with a network of over 100,000 agents.
In March 2021, it hit a milestone of transactions worth over N1trillion ($2.4bn) for the first time. In May, the value increased to N1.4 trillion ($3.5bn) with 68 million transactions in volume, and between April 2020 and April 2021, the total value of transactions processed has gone up to $16 billion.
Speaking on the company’s plans to transform financial services in Africa, CEO and founder of TeamApt, Mr. Tosin Eniolorunda said “To achieve our mission of providing financial happiness for all, we started out by building working infrastructure and distributing this in every of Nigeria’s 36 states.
“So far, Moniepoint has served over 25 percent of the 48 million banked Nigerians, previously underserved by the financial system. This is a great feat but we still have a lot of work to do. Many Nigerians are still underserved, and with this pain not exclusive to Nigeria but shared among Africans, we intend to scale into more regions of the continent.
“We remain focused on innovating, and we expect that in the future, through Moniepoint, we will reach more people across Africa and build their trust in the financial system and processes. We look forward to empowering our agents with the facilities to offer other financial services directly to customers, beyond deposits and withdrawals,’’ Eniolorunda added.
TeamApt reiterated its commitment to transform financial services in Africa, the company was founded in 2015 and started out by building infrastructure for tier-one financial institutions.
SEC Plans to Launch Regulatory Incubation Programme For Fintechs
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced plans to launch a regulatory incubation (RI) programme for fintech operating or seeking to operate in the Nigerian capital market.
According to a circular published on the commission’s website on Wednesday, June 16, it says that the initiative will be launched in the third quarter of 2021 and will operate by admitting identified fintech business models and processes in cohorts for a one-year period.
The RI program comprises two phases of participation – an initial assessment phase and the regulatory incubation phase.
The SEC said that the categories to be admitted into each cohort will be determined based on submissions received through the fintech assessment form and communicated ahead of each take-off date.
The circular read: “Review of completed Fintech Assessment Forms will continue on an ongoing basis. FinTechs who consider that there is no specific regulation governing their business models or who require clarity on the appropriate regulatory regime for seeking the authorization of the Commission, are encouraged to complete the Fintech Assessment Form.”
The commission maintained that it designed the RI program in order to address the needs of new business models and processes that require regulatory authorization to continue carrying out full or ancillary technology-driven capital market activities.
It will serve as an interim measure to aid the evolution of effective regulation which accommodates the innovation by fintech without compromising market integrity and within limits that ensure investor protection.
Truecaller Launches Smart SMS Feature in Africa
Truecaller, the world’s most trusted and accurate Caller ID and telephone search engine, is rolling out a new feature to further augment the user experience.
The new feature Smart SMS has been introduced based on user feedback and is designed to cater to the evolving needs of our consumers. It offers a host of new services to make day-to-day communication a lot more convenient.
Smart SMS is powered by state-of-the-art machine learning models that adapt based on the feedback you give it. It supports users with important messages from banks, billers, travel companies, delivery companies and so much more.
Smart SMS also helps users stay protected from spam and fraud. Only the essential information within an SMS is highlighted and all SMS messages are categorised and easily accessible. From keeping track of your expenses to last-minute changes to your travel, Smart SMS is the future of SMS that will make life a whole lot easier.
Commenting on the new addition, Zakaria Abdulkadir Hersi, Director of Business Development & Partnerships Africa at Truecaller said: “Roughly 80% of SMSes one receives daily are from businesses, disengaging users from important/useful messages. To combat that, SMS apps need to become smarter by filtering out spam and categorising useful information.
“At Truecaller, we constantly strive to offer the best user experience by adding unique features that fit in with our core mission: to make communication safer and more efficient for everyone. Truecaller has evolved into a powerful communication hub and for the people who wish to use the app to its fullest, we want to streamline the experience as much as possible for an efficient calling and messaging experience for our end user.”
Truecaller uses the same powerful algorithms used to identify spam callers in SMS as well. The SMS intelligence is built into the app itself and it can work offline – nothing leaves your device, including all OTPs, bank SMSes and financial information.
The feature also offers a Smart Inbox that identifies unknown SMS sender numbers and SMS sender IDs are resolved to business names with logos.
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