Google must pay a fine of 150 million euros to the French • The Register

Google failed in its attempt to reject a 150 million euro fine imposed by the French monopoly watchdog in 2019 for exploiting its position in the search advertising market, a court ruled on Thursday.

The penalty, equivalent to around £124.8 million or $163.2 million – or around 20 hours of the company’s annual profits, based on its latest financial results [PDF] – was imposed by the Competition Authority. The regulator criticized the search giant for “adopting opaque and difficult to understand operating rules for its Google Ads advertising platform and applying them in an unfair and haphazard manner”.

Google pledged to appeal the fine, but lost its case after judges sided with the FCA.

The Authority has opened an investigation into Google after a French company, Gibmedia, complained that it was suddenly prevented from serving advertisements through Google Ads without warning. Google claimed Gibmedia was breaking the rules by trying to persuade people to sign up for services with dubious subscription fees.

Google stands by its original decision to suspend Gibmedia. “People expect to be protected from intrusive and abusive ads and that’s what our advertising policies are for,” a company spokesperson said. The register.

“Gibmedia served advertisements for websites that entice people to pay for services available for free or at low cost, on official or widely available sources. We do not want these types of advertisements on our systems, so we have suspended Gibmedia to protect consumers from harm.”

Although Google will still have to shell out the 150 million euros, it has managed to cancel two orders issued by the watchdog, according to Reuters. One was to set up a tool to make it easier for French internet users to file complaints about Google Ads, and the other asked the company to publish an annual report detailing the number of suspended websites and the advertising rules. violated.

“Following the FCA’s initial decision, we have already made some changes to make these policies even clearer and we will now fully review the Court’s decision and consider our next steps,” the spokesperson added.

Google has scrapped its previous free item sales policy, which prohibited sellers from advertising free products and services with hidden costs. Instead, it updated a rule to clarify that sellers may not run ads promoting materials or services obtainable directly from a “government or delegated supplier” – such as applying for or renewing passports or obtaining licenses for things like fishing or owning firearms. ®

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