The Autorité de la Concurrence, France's authority for competition, has fined Google roughly $166 million for anti-competitive behaviour in its keyword advertising business.
According to media reports, Google has been mistreating some advertisers that bought keyword ads on its search engine. The competition authority claimed “brutal and unjustified” suspension of certain advertisers, with head Isabelle de Silva saying Google has “the power of life and death” over companies whose business model depends heavily on keyword advertising on Google.
“We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules. But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers,” she said.
Google, on the other hand, says certain advertisers broke its rules and that it will appeal the fine.
“People expect to be protected from exploitative and abusive ads and this is what our advertising policies are for” a Google spokesperson said, according to CityAM.
The company claims an advertiser was scamming people, “running ads for websites that deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms”.
“We do not want these kinds of ads on our systems, so we suspended [the company] and gave up advertising revenue to protect consumers from harm.”
This is not the first time Google has found itself in the crosshairs of French regulators. Three months ago, the company agreed to pay roughly $1bn to settle a four-year fiscal fraud investigation.
In general, tech companies (especially American tech companies) are being heavily scrutinised in the EU mostly because the Union’s lawmakers think many American companies aren’t paying enough taxes oversees and that they’re often abusing their dominant market position.