The French Competition Authority has Fined Google $166 Million

By Bill Toulas / December 21, 2019

France’s competition authority (Autorité de la concurrence) has decided that Google’s own “search ads policy” is inconsistent and pretty much arbitrary, so they have decided to impose a fine of $166 million (150 million Euros) to the tech giant. The report that accompanies the decision describes abusive practices based on the dominant position that Google holds in the field of online advertising. More specifically, the context that underpins Google Ads is characterized as confusing, opaque, random, and purposefully unfair to specific companies.

Besides the fine, which is not of a magnitude that will make Google sweat, the tech company is requested to clarify the drafting of the operating rules that determine how Google Ads work, and what procedure is followed when Google decides to suspends accounts. The French openly accuse Google of not being transparent enough and of deploying discriminatory algorithms, so they are asking for specific explanations. The time that was given for Google to respond is two months for a report on its intentions, and six months to implement the corrective measures.

To justify why the authority has reached the above conclusions, they are offering some insight in the form of examples. Starting with the “natural results” and the “sponsored results” on Search, the authority accuses Google of not being clear about how auctioned placing works, and how the company regulates the interaction between the advertisers and the user. Moreover, in most cases, advertisers are not in a position to estimate or predict the campaign impact and the level of promotion they’ll get for their money.

The French authority continues with a case that highlights how the company applies Ads rules selectively, banning some sites while others with similar content remain untouched. The example of Gibmedia’s websites is a characteristic one, as the websites of the company were suspended while Google continued to promote ads of the same type coming from other firms.

Another serious matter is the accusation of not supporting the development of new sites. Google is not geared towards the promotion of the development of innovative websites, as it should be, and in fact, the company is allegedly doing the exact opposite. Natural referencing is not helping low-awareness websites find an audience, forcing these platforms to pay large amounts of money to Google or get drown from the very beginning of their venture.

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