The investigation of Google by the French competition authorities revealed that the rules on the Google Ads platform were ‘opaque and difficult to understand’ and, moreover, that they were enforced ‘unfairly and arbitrarily’. A fine of 150 million euros has therefore been imposed on the tech giant.
The platform is used to display ads to users as they browse through Google’s search results. These appear as organic results, but the research has shown that the rules for placing the ads are inconsistent and, therefore, not fair.
Google has announced that it will appeal the fine.
In particular, the fine relates to the rules that Google applies on its Ads platform. These rules determine the conditions under which advertisers can show advertisements. The French competition authority finds these rules confusing, and says that they are applied inconsistently. The authorities also found that Google changed its position on the interpretation of the rules at certain points in time. According to the authorities, this led to instability for certain advertisers, who were more or less taken hostage in a situation of legal and economic uncertainty.
The President of the French competition authority, Isabelle de Silva, said that Google has “the power of life or death for certain companies that live by these advertisements”. “We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules,” she said according to Reuters. “But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers.”
The French antitrust investigation lasted four years, and resulted from an complaint filed by Gibmedia, a French company that has a number of websites that provide weather forecasts, company data and telephone numbers. Gibmedia accused Google of suspending Gibmedia’s Google Ads account without prior notice.