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France fined Google €150 million “for abusing its dominant position”

Autorité de la concurrence, France’s competition authority,  said in the statement published today:”Google has abused its dominant position in the search advertising market by adopting opaque and difficult to understand operating rules for its Google Ads advertising platform and applying them unfairly and randomly.”

The Authority imposed a financial penalty of € 150 million ($166million) on Google. It also orders Google to clarify the operating rules of its Google Ads advertising platform and the procedures for suspending accounts. Google will also have to put in place measures to prevent, detect and deal with violations of Google Ads “Rules”.

The summary of the decision must be accessible via the home page of the search engines Google.com and Google.fr, for a period of one week.

Google Market Domination

Given its dominant position (more than 90% of searches carried out in France and probably more than 80% on the online advertising market linked to searches), reinforced by the existence of very high barriers to entry, Google is required to define the Operating Rules of its advertising platform in an objective, clear and non-discriminatory way. However, the wording of the Rules is not based on any precise and stable definition, which gives Google full latitude to interpret them according to the situations.

Google has frequently changed its position on the interpretation of the Rules. This instability has the effect of keeping certain advertisers in a situation of legal and economic insecurity, the latter being exposed to changes in position of Google, and therefore to the suspension of their site or even their account, which they cannot not anticipate.

In September 2014, Google considers, for example, that the paid site annuaires-inverse.net (now defunct) complies with its Rules relating to the sale of normally free services. However, in January 2015, without the site having changed its economic model, Google suspended the site.

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