France’s competition watchdog has levied a fine of $167 million on Google citing Google’s non-transparent advertising rules and the fact that it changes them at will.
Google is facing a growing number of investigations into its advertisement business practices, on both sides of the Atlantic.
The ruling is the first penalty by the French authorities against the U.S. search engine giant.
In a statement Google said it will appeal the decision.
The development comes in the wake of a complaint filed by a French media company, Gibmedia, that manages a host of services including managing corporate data, directories, and weather forecasting.
French antitrust authorities took four years to investigate Google’s advertising practises.
According to French antitrust authorities, by changing the terms and conditions of its services at will, Google had abused its market power.
“The way the rules are applied give Google a power of life or death over some small businesses that live only on this kind of service,” said Isabelle de Silva, the head of the authority, at a news conference.
The French antitrust authority has also charged Google with a lack of objectivity and predictability in defining the rules on Google Ads.
Since Google has a market share of nearly 90% in the online advertisement business, it has a responsibility towards offering a fair access to Google Ads, said the regulator.
“One of the great principles of competition law is that with great power comes great responsibility,” said de Silva.
In January 2019, France’s data protection watchdog had fined Google 50 million euros for non-compliance to EU online privacy rules.
In September 2019, Google had agreed to settle for nearly 1 billion euros, an investigation into a fiscal fraud probe that began in 2015.