- French antitrust watchdog fines Google for abusing its power with online advertising
- Google argued it would appeal the decision based on its advertising policies
- French authority said “there’s been very little progress” despite Google’s pledges
The French competition watchdog has fined Google $167 million for abusing its power over the treatment of advertisers and its “opaque” business practices.
The French authority found Google abused its dominant position in search with “opaque and difficult to understand operating rules” for its Google Ads advertising platform that it applied unfairly and randomly.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the investigation by Autorité de la concurrence took four years and followed a complaint filed by Gibmedia, a French company that manages a range of websites offering weather forecasts, corporate data and directories.
Gibmedia accused Google of having suspended its Google Ads account without notice.
However, Google said it would appeal the decision, arguing that its advertising policies were designed to protect people from “exploitative and abusive ads.”
Google said in a statement: “Gibmedia was running ads for websites that deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms.
“We do not want these kinds of ads on our systems, so we suspended Gibmedia and gave up advertising revenue to protect consumers from harm.”
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Speaking during a press conference on Friday, Autorité de la concurrence head Isabelle de Silva said: “Google has to do more and better than just any company.
“The rules were not only very difficult to understand” but they also “changed all the time, from one month to the other.”
Silva explained the lack of clear communication made it very difficult for advertisers to understand what they could and could not do, and said the authority had been in contact with Google since 2010.
Despite some pledges from the technology giant, “there’s been very little progress on the points that were raised,” Silva added.
Google was also ordered to clarify the rules for Google Ads and its procedure for suspending accounts.
The French authority’s decision must be displayed on the google.com and google.fr home pages for a week and it will have to put in place measures to prevent, detect and deal with violations of Google Ads rules.
Google has faced a growing number of investigations into its operations. It is the first penalty imposed by the French antitrust watchdog against the US technology firm, despite a number of previous clashes.
The fine is France’s third-biggest monopoly abuse penalty since 2009.
Separately, French regulators are investigating Facebook following a complaint from Criteo, De Silva said, it will also set up a new digital unit to handle internet issues.
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