French regulators on Friday fined Google $167 million for using it dominant market position to engage in anti-competitive advertising practices in the form of unclear advertising on the Google Ads page, as tech companies continue to be hit by antitrust penalties. French regulators accused Google of deciding which ads it would accept on its Google Ads page was opaque and unpredictable.
A number of U.S. tech companies have been under the scanner of European regulators for anti-competitive behavior. Moreover, US tech giants have also drawn the ire of European regulators for paying comparatively lower tax. Google said that it will appeal the decision.
France corners Google
The French regulators have an issue with the ads that appear next to search results. European regulators have been comparatively stricter than their US counterparts when it comes to dealing with anti-competitive behavior. On Friday, the French regulators said that it the rules set by Google that govern how and when advertisers can show their ads next to search results are unclear and unpredictable.
The French regulators have also ordered Google to "clarify the operating rules of its Google Ads platform and the procedures for suspending accounts". The regulators also cited that given Google's 90% market share in online search business, the tech giant is expected to give fair access to Google Ads. "One of the great principles of competition law is that with great power comes great responsibility," said Isabelle de Silva, the head of the authority.
Regulators tighten grip on tech companies
This is the first time a penalty has been imposed on Google by the French regulators. However, tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Intel have been increasingly facing the ire of regulators both in the United States and Europe. They have been under the scanner for anti-competitive behavior.
That said, Google's problems in France aren't new. Earlier in September the tech giant agreed to settle a four-year-old fiscal fraud probe by paying almost $1 billion to the French regulators. France's investigation on Google has been continuing since then after a French web services company Gibmedia lodged a complaint.
Gibmedia was removed and not allowed to run ads on Google Ads platform. Google apparently had removed Gibmedia for running ads that deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms. However, Google has a big task in its hand for the time being. Although it will be appeal the decision, the company has to either make some changes or clarify its rules to the French authorities.