Categories: MarketingWorkspace

France Fines Google For Offering Free Maps

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.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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  • I think it is really difficult for many 'conventional' businesses to compete with companies like Google who offer similar stuff free of charge. After all, if you have spent years and millions of pounds / euros / dollars building your business, it is frustrating to find that a large organisation comes along and gives your USP away for free... especially if they [Google] had built that technology not using conventional sound business rules (i.e. investing with the expectation of a great ROI), but because they are awash with money and can afford to 'dabble'.
    As a consumer I think Google maps is a great application - so thank you google, but it is sad if it renders conventional businesses unviable as a result.
    As a [tongue in cheek] footnote, I'm wondering whether I should be seeking redress against Google because they offer websites for free when I charge my clients for them. Seriously, though, I know that I offer my clients a better, more professional and more thorough service than they can get from free Google Sites. Perhaps the French mapping company should think like this too!

    • google maps can only be provided free due the age of the maps and satelite images used. the older they are the cheaper they are.
      getting outdated maps aprox a decade old free is the most you would be willing to pay.

      companys that provide similar services charge, and people are willing to pay, when the images used are quite recent.
      if they are loosing business to such an impotent competitor in that field then there services and USP must be weak.

      there is many map types and information not given by google.

    • In reply to Martin Jarvis's comment:

      Who has Google come along and usurped their USP, truly, who spent time working hard, building up a business? In online maps? No-one. For, while Google wasn't there from the very start (a couple of companies like Streetmap were), it wasn't long before Google was doing good things there in free online maps. MSN maps were there before Google and Yahoo maps, I think, around the same time. These were free online map providers. And there were and are numerous others.

      So exactly who wasn't aware of these online map providers, for they were the biggest worldwide? No-one at all has been ambushed in their business modelsby Google online maps!!!! No-one. But here Google has been ambushed. If the French wish to put stops on the control a huge multi-national company can have in the lives of its natioanals, it should not seek to cover that up. This must be against E.U. law, and I doubt the judgement even has any real bearing with E.U. competition law.

      It can never be anti-competitive to offer a free service that is unnconnected with one's business income. Google Adwords and paid search submissions have nothing to do with the maps, and one looking immediately for an online map would miss adwords and even the search listings altogether.

      It's a scandal to say a free service is anti-comptetive just because it is not provided by a charity, because it is provided by a company who makes its money in other areas. When the apparent concern for a society concerned with the economy overtakes liberty and appreciation for natural quality of life as a right, something has gone very sickly wrong.

      Google Maps is one of the amazing things of the world.

      French reason is not at all something like that, in the modern day.

  • if you neighbor is succeeding cut their legs, i cant win, so wont you...
    We should get pass that stage... its ancient.. this era talks about technology, Information for common people,

    there are always innovative ways to make money for enterprises.. rather than suing someone who is doing better.

    Today Goggle's map's are being used intensively throughout the world for moving people from place to another, which in itself give a person freedom of movement to discover new places, plan their journey..

    On other hand common people are not using Google map to generate money, so charging corporate is the right thing to do.

    Honestly tell me if none of us have used goggle maps ?? even people who oppose Google on case above looks at google map before leaving home.. to see where your house is located !!

    I don't support with the decision of Goggle being fined for offering free maps.. they are just bring us to a innovative style of living in this century.

  • Simple things for google to do that would have the French up in arms:
    pay the fine and then block all French IP addresses from using any Google internet services ... I don't think it would take long before the French population were begging them to be allowed access.

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