France fines Google $167 million over search engine ads

WION Web Team Paris Dec 20, 2019, 04.21 PM(IST) Dec 20, 2019, 04.26 PM(IST)

File photo of a Google office in Beijing, China. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The French competition body sought clear rules from Google and said that it could not be applied in 'an erratic way'.

France's competition authority has fined Google $167 million for unclear advertising linked to web searches and resorting to anti-competitive behaviour.

In a strongly worded statement, the French authority asked Google to clarify the operating rules of its Google Ads advertising platform and the procedures for suspending the accounts of certain advertisers.

"Google holds an extraordinarily dominant position in search-based advertising, with a market share of between 90 and 100 per cent, said  Isabelle de Silva, the chief of the French authority, adding,"when you have great power, you also have great responsibilities".

The competition body sought clear rules from Google and said that it could not be applied in "an erratic way".

"Uncertainty about the rules framework for advertisers may have discouraged the development of innovative sites", the competition authority said.

The development comes as Google faces backlash in several European countries over tax and privacy concerns.  Last month the search giant had informed that it had updated how it handled political ads.

The US search giant said its rules ban any advertiser, including those with political messages, from making demonstrably false claims. Google said it will also limit targeting of political ads to general categories such as age, gender, or postal code level location.

"It's against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim, whether it's a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died," Google ads product management vice president Scott Spencer had said. 

Google had said it would begin changes in Britain and throughout the EU by year-end and around the world year next year.

In March, the European Commission had fined Google $1.7 billion for blocking rival online search advertisers. The European Commission had said that the anti-competitive practice had lasted a decade.

"Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said while castigating the US company.

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