Google fined ~$166 million by France over search ads
European regulators have generally taken a harder line against anti-competitive behavior than their counterparts in the US. Ask Intel and Microsoft about their multibillion-euro fines if you doubt. This time it’s Google in the crosshairs, as Autorité de la concurrence, France’s competition authority, hit the advertising giant with a €150 million ($166 million) fine Friday morning for abusing its dominant position in online advertising.
At issue are the ads that appear next to search results. France’s competition authority says that Google rules governing how and when advertisers can show their ads next to search results are applied in an “unfair and random manner.”
Autorité de la concurrence’s investigation dates back several years, and it’s based on a complaint made by Gibmedia, a French Web services and micropayments firm. Gibmedia had been booted from Google’s ad platform for running ads that “deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms,” according to a statement Google gave to Tech Crunch.
Compared to the €1.5 billion (~$1.69 billion) fine the European Commission levied against Google in March of this year, the French fine is more of a slap on the wrist. The EU had ruled that Google’s bundling of ad and custom search platforms was anticompetitive.
Google says it will appeal the French decision, but in the meantime it must make some changes, including clarifying its rules and issuing periodic reports to Autorité de la concurrence.
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