Google Fined in France For Abusing Dominant Position

Google Fined in France For Abusing Dominant Position

2nd February 2012

Things are not really going Google’s way in the first weeks of January so it seems. At least, if you look at the outside perspective of things. From the inside they did some pretty nifty things with the launch of Search Plus Your World for example.

From the outside however we have seen complaints about privacy, complaints about abusing their own products to push their own products and many other little hick ups which led us to think Google might be trying to kill themselves.

In the series of ‘ouch that hurts a little’ Google can add another to the list. A ruling Tuesday in a Paris court found Google guilty of abusing the dominant position of Google Maps.

Google was fined after Bottin Cartographes, a mapping service, had filed a complaint against Google for abusing their dominant position in Maps. Since Bottin Cartographes provides a similar service to Google Maps, but then in exchange for a fee, they felt they were pushed away by Google in a strategy which Bottin Cartographes could never do themselves: give things away for free to get domination of the market.

Simply said: Bottin Cartographes felt that because Google is giving away Maps for free, they don’t stand a chance.

The Paris court agreed with Bottin Cartographes and fined Google for 500,000 euros ($660,000) in damages and interest to the plaintiff and a 15,000 euro fine.

Bottin Cartographes’ lawyer Jean-David Scemmama off course was content with the verdict:

“We proved the illegality of (Google’s) strategy to remove its competitors… the court recognised the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application,”

Where the other side, Google, off course isn’t and is ready to appeal. They state:

“We will appeal this decision. We remain convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites. There remains competition in this sector for us, both in France and internationally.”

So Google cannot give away things for free?

If this verdict becomes a precedent for future verdicts Google might be in for some major trouble. In almost every product they launch onto the world wide web they have the same strategy: give the service away for free and get the money with the ads surrounding that service.

This verdict in a way says Google can’t do that if there are competitors who do ask money. To be honest, the fact that Google has been found guilty here surprised me a bit, since it is a well known business model. And if this verdict becomes a world wide acknowledged one, where other countries might follow, the impact is a lot bigger than Google. It would almost mean larger Internet Companies can give nothing away for free anymore.

Important to note is that this is a verdict in France, a country which historically has been ‘fighting’ Google in different areas, especially the privacy area. The same claim in a different country might get a different verdict.


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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