This article was published on December 20, 2019

France fines Google €150 million for abusing its ad dominance

France fines Google €150 million for abusing its ad dominance

The French competition regulator just announced it’s issuing a whopping €150 million antitrust fine on Google, Reuters reports. The watchdog found Google had abused its dominant position in the ad market by implementing unclear and unpredictable rules on Google Ads — the company’s ad platform.

According to the regulator, Google has around 90 percent of the online search business in France. That’s why it’s paramount the US tech giant ensures fair access to Google ads.

“One of the great principles of competition law is that with great power comes great responsibility,” explained Isabelle de Silva, the head of the French regulator.

The fine was the result of an four-year long investigation after Gibmedia — a French company that runs a host of sites, ranging from weather forecasts to dictionaries — accused Google of suspending its Google ads account without notice.

Google has announced it’ll appeal the fine and it still believes suspending Gibmedia’s account was the right thing to do. Google maintains that the French company’s ads could be harmful to users by deceiving them into paying for services with unclear billing terms.

This hasn’t satisfied French authorities who hold market leaders to high standards. “The way the rules are applied give Google a power of life or death over some small businesses that live only on this kind of services,” de Silva said.

Hard scrutiny

Google is under intense examination these days as more and more regulators from around the world join in on reining in its influence. France has kept up the pressure, fining the company €50 million in January for breaking EU privacy rules and just last September, Google agreed to pay almost €1 billion to settle fiscal fraud probe.

The EU has also laid heavy fines on Google in various cases over the last two years. The main driver for the EU’s increased pressure on Google in antitrust cases has been Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. She recently assumed the office of Executive Vice President of the EU Commission, so it appears her approach on how to handle tech giants will become even more apparent in the EU.

Things are now also heating up in the States as 50 US states and territories announced earlier this year they were launching an investigation into Google’s “potential monopolistic behavior.” So Google might now be facing heavy scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

Whatever happens, it looks like 2020 is going to be a busy year for Google’s legal team.

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