France has accused Google of anti-competitive behaviour in the advertising campaigns it runs on its search engine for French users.
The competition regulator fined the U.S. tech giant €150 million (£128 million).
“Brutal and Unjustified” Behaviours
The competition authority in France, the Autorité de la Concurrence, accused Google of the “brutal and unjustified” suspensions. This referred to Google’s action to suspend certain keyword adverts on its platform without adequate justification, according to the regulator.
The search engine giant was accused of having abused its market dominance. Moreover, it failed to implement a system that would warn advertisers that they were at risk of suspension.
“Google has the power of life or death for certain companies that live by these advertisements,” said France’s competition authority chairman, Isabelle de Silva. “We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules. But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers.”
Demanding Google Rule Clarification
Above and beyond the fine, the regulator has issued additional orders for the technology giant. Google will now need to improve the “opaque and difficult to understand” rules its advertisers must follow. The company must clarify those rules. The purpose is to make them easier for advertisers to understand so that they may comply.
The case stems from a complaint made by a firm called Gibmedia – a weather forecast website publisher that first filed its complaint four years ago. Google claims that Gibmedia’s sites had been running ads for “websites that deceived people into paying for service.”
Despite the penalty, Google has been standing by its policies. The company explained that its advertising rules were established in order to provide its platform users with protection against “exploitative and abusive ads”.
Prior Reprimands in 2019
The fine is only one of a rising number of penalties in Europe being issued against technology leaders from the United States. In fact, this isn’t the first time Google has been fined in Europe, or France for that matter, in 2019.
Recently, Google was also required to pay other substantial fines in France. The U.S. firm agreed to pay the country €500 million following a fiscal fraud probe. Moreover, the company was also obliged to shell out an additional €465 million to the country in unpaid taxes. This was the result of an investigation that began back in 2015 and that was called an “historic” case of tax fraud.
Though the company agreed to pay the fine and unpaid taxes, a Google spokesperson has recently stated the tech giant’s intentions to appeal this most recent fine.
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