French Court Charges Google Maps Guilty Of Unfair Competition

February 2, 2012 0

France — In a startling move, search engine giant Google has more foes than friends around the globe, and there was more bad news in France for Google on Wednesday as its French subsidiary have been sentenced and fined for abuse of a dominant position by the Commercial Court of Paris, the AFP reports.

This is not the first time that Google has been prosecuted for unfair competition, and multiple lawsuits are ongoing in different countries. But in a ruling, the Paris court endorsed an unfair competition complaint registered by Bottin Cartographes, a French company that provides essentially the same services as Google Maps, but for a fee, filed the complaint against Google France and its parent company Google Inc. for providing free web mapping services to some businesses and won.

The Paris Commercial Court at last discovered that Google had abused its supremacy in the online mapping market, when it offered its mapping tools to business customers for free, and steered advertising customers to use its mapping service as a way to improve their visibility in search results.

It claimed the Google strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market. The court asserted that Google’s behavior compelled competitors out of the market in a “general elimination strategy”, and ordered Google to pay 500,000 euros ($660,000) in damages and interest to the plaintiff and a 15,000 euro fine.

“This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent,” said the lawyer for Bottin Cartographes, Jean-David Scemmama.

However, a spokesperson for Google France has already confirmed that the company would not accept today’s ruling:

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

Surprisingly, Google’s free mapping services have been the bone of contention of much annoyance in Europe, with a number of European mapping companies pursuing complaints against the company.

One such accusation by map provider Euro-Cities, was disregarded last year by the German competition authorities. However, another is part of the larger Brussels competition inquiry. All bets are still on over how that decision will go.

The decision comes as we await the bigger decision by the European Commission over whether Google has behaved anti-competitively in the search market. The search engine leader already confronted with an anti-trust challenge over AdWords in France, and the French courts indicated in an interim ruling on another case that the company had been guilty of abuse of dominance. Navx, the French location data company that brought the case, is now demanding E23m in damages from Google in the Paris Commercial Court.

Nevertheless, the two cases are not in any way connected and the Paris decision will not have bearing on the Brussels judgment, but it shows the difficulties Google faces, especially in France.

Check out the video below to learn more about the case: