Out-Law News 1 min. read

Free Google Maps service is anti-competitive, French court rules

Google's 'Maps' service is anti-competitive because the company is exploiting its dominant market position by offering the service for free, a French court has ruled.

The commercial court in Paris ordered the internet giant to pay rival firm map provider Bottin Cartographes €500,000 in damages and interest and fined the company €15,000. Bottin, which charges users of its maps service, had claimed Google was trying to force competitors out of the market and that its tactics in doing so were unfair, according to media reports.

"This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent," Jean-David Scemmama, Bottin's lawyer, said, according to a report by the AFP news agency. "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," he said.

EU competition rules set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibit companies from abusing a dominant market position.

Such abuse can include by "directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices or other unfair trading conditions; limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of consumers; applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage; making the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations which, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of such contracts," the TFEU states.

Google France said it planned to appeal the ruling, according to the AFP report.

"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," a spokesman for the company said, according to the report.

Last month another French court ordered Google to pay a fine of $65,000 after its search engine suggested the French word for 'crook' when users typed-in the name of an insurance company. Google had unsuccessfully argued that it was not liable for the word association because it had been generated by an automatic algorithm and not by human thought.

In March last year Google was also issued with a €100,000 fine by the French National Commission for Information Technologies and Civil Liberties after the regulator said the company was collecting WiFi user data without consent.

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