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France Fines Google For Offering Free Maps

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Google Maps is deemed anti-competitive in France

Mon Dieu but search engine giant Google is not popular in certain French circles after Google Maps was ruled to be anti competitive, because its maps are offered free of charge.

A court in Paris ruled that Google France, and its parent company Google has to cough up a hefty 500,000 (£416,000) euro fine.

Abusive Character?

The fine will be payable to the company that made the original complaint, namely Bottin Cartographes, which also offers maps but charges a fee for them.

The French court deemed that Google’s free mapping service is an anti competitive practise. And it said Google must also pay an additional 15,000 euro (£12,475) fine for the practice.

“We proved the illegality of (Google’s) strategy to remove its competitors,” Jean-David Scemmama, attorney for Bottin Cartographes, a company that provides mapping services to businesses, told  AFP. “The court recognized the unfair and abusive character of the methods used, and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application.”

“This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent,” Bottin Cartographes” lawyer was quoted as saying by Wired.

Google has reportedly said that it will appeal the court’s decision.

Heavy Duty Charges

Interestingly, the French decision comes as Google prepares to begin charging heavy corporate users of its map service in “early 2012.”

This move seems aimed firmly at corporations that use the service more than 25,000 times a day, and could be intended to fend off further legal complaints about the free use of Google’s mapping service.

Google is of course no stranger to the courtroom. It is currently in hot water over its decision to consolidate and unify its privacy policies across its online portfolio, into just one single privacy policy.

This decision has faced criticism from some quarters and now it seems certain that Google will face some form of regulatory probe over the matter.

Despite all this legal furore, Google continues to update and improve its mapping service. Last month for example Google revealed it was adding information to Google Maps that will let users plan rail journeys in the UK.

And last November the company revealed that Google Maps was heading indoors at select shopping arcades, retailers and airports across the United States and Japan. It did this after Google upgraded Maps for Android to let smartphone and tablet users in the United States and Japan see where they are and what places they might want to check out while they are indoors.

Google is comparing the new directions to the physical map directories that shoppers find in malls, or those that travellers use to find their way inside airports.