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France fines Google €150m for abusing its dominant position

By Hugh Wilson

French authorities slap the search engine giant with a hefty anti-trust penalty

France fines Google

France’s competition authority has hit Google with a €150m fine (£128m, $166m) for abusing its dominant position in the online advertising market.

In a strongly worded statement, the French Competition Authority accused Google of imposing “non-objective, non-transparent and discriminatory conditions” on advertisers and for operating “opaque and difficult to understand” operating rules.

“Google has all the discretion to modify its interpretation of the rules in a way that is difficult to predict, and decide accordingly whether the sites comply with them or not,” the statement continued.

The authority ordered Google to clarify its Google ads policies and to explain its procedures for suspending accounts.

The fine comes after an investigation into Google’s treatment of a company called Gibmedia, which had its Google Ads account closed without notice in 2015.

Responding to the fine, a Google spokesman claimed that Gibmedia was “running ads for websites that deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms”.

The spokesman continued: “We do not want these kinds of ads on our systems, so we suspended Gibmedia and gave up advertising revenue to protect consumers from harm.”

Google and other tech giants are facing intense scrutiny in Europe over anti-competitive practices and tax avoidance.

In September, Google agreed to pay almost €1bn to French authorities to settle an investigation into its tax affairs.

And earlier this week the UK’s competition authority issued an interim report on the market dominance of Google and Facebook, expressing concern that “they are both now so large and have such extensive access to data that potential rivals can no longer compete on equal terms”.

Shares in Google parent company Alphabet remain bullish, despite the increasing pressure from European regulators. Shares have risen more than 20 per cent in 2019.

FURTHER READING: US states to meet on Google anti-trust case

FURTHER READING: Google and Facebook face stricter UK regulation

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