Google fined in France over misleading rating system for hotels

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Google has been fined €1.1 million over misleading star ratings for hotels in France. The company has agreed to pay the fine after it had been applying its own algorithm-driven system of ratings for hotels applied on its search engine and Google Maps.

However, back in 2019, several complaints had come in from hoteliers, prompting the French National Competition and Consumer Watchdog (DGCCRF) to start an investigation into the proprietary rating system.

The probe showed that the tech giant had replaced the Standard Classification System of Atout France (the French public tourist board) with a star rating system following its own criteria.

The criteria

The criteria Google used, was applied to more than 7500 businesses. The problem here was that the Google version of a Five Star hotel was not the same as that of the Atout France. The DGCCRF found that Google’s presentation for classifying tourist accommodation, and the use of the term ‘Stars’ on the same scale from 1-5, was confusing for consumers.

The watchdog says that the practice was particularly harmful to consumers misled about the level of services they could expect when booking accommodation.

Punishing Google

The fallout led to prejudice for hoteliers who had their establishments wrongly presented and ranked lower than the Atout France scale. The watchdog then concluded that Google had engaged in a ‘deceptive business practice,’ after which it teamed with the public prosecutor to propose the sanction announced on Monday, on Google Ireland and Google France.

Google has changed its hotel star ratings in France, agreeing to show the official Atout France ratings.

Tourists in France can now be confident that the ratings they see cannot be influenced by usual hacking tactics.