France Fines Google 150m Euros For Anti-Competitive Behaviour

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Anti-competitive behaviour and advertising rule breaches. France hits Google with hefty 150m euros penalty over its online advertising domination

Google is facing more legal and regulatory scrutiny in Europe, after France’s competition authority fined Google 150 million euros (£128 million).

It alleged that Google had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and had unclear advertising on the Google Ads page.

There was further bad news for tech giants such as Google this week when the UK competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also said it was concerned that the dominance of tech giants in the digital advertising sector could be harming competition.

French fine

According to the Daily Mail, Isabelle de Silva, head of the French competition authority, told a news conference that Google has been sanctioned for abusing its dominant position on the market for advertising linked to web searches.

“Google holds an ‘extraordinarily dominant position’ in search-based advertising, with a market share of between 90 and 100 percent,” she said. “…and ‘when you have great power, you also have great responsibilities’.”

The French regulator also ordered Google to ‘clarify the operating rules of its Google Ads advertising platform and the procedures for suspending the accounts’ of certain advertisers.

“Google has the power of life or death for certain companies that live by these advertisements,” said de Silva. “We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules. But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers.”

Google has said it would appeal the fine.

Other fines

It should be remembered that in September, Google said it would pay French authorities nearly 1 billion euros (or $1.1bn) to settle a fiscal fraud probe that began four years ago.

That settlement comprises a fine of 500 million euros and additional taxes of 465 million euros, Google said in a statement.

And in January 2019 Google was slapped with a 50 million euro (£44m) fine for breaking EU privacy laws in France.

The fine, issued by the France’s data protection office (CNIL), found the US search engine guilty “for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalisation.”

At the start of 2019, France implemented a digital tax on tech giants such as Google and Facebook, amid outrage at the levels of tax these firms pay in local markets.

Meanwhile alleged ‘anti-competitive conduct’ at major tech companies such as Google is now also being examined in America, including probes by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

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