Google Hit With $167M Fine in France in Search Ad Case

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The country's competition authority criticizes the tech giant for "adopting opaque and difficult to understand operating rules for its advertising platform Google Ads and by applying them unfairly and random."

France’s competition authority on Friday said it has fined Alphabet’s Google 150 million euros ($167 million) for suspending advertisers that placed allegedly deceptive ads.

"The Authority sanctions Google for having abused the dominant position it holds [in] the search advertising market, by adopting opaque and difficult to understand operating rules for its advertising platform Google Ads and by applying them unfairly and [randomly]," the competition watchdog said. It ordered the company to stop the practice and clarify its rules for advertisers.

Google said it would appeal the ruling.

Google and other U.S. tech giants have been facing a slew of antitrust investigations and rulings. The European Union’s competition watchdog has slapped fines on Google in several cases in recent years. 

Earlier this year, it unveiled a 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion at the time) fine for Google for breaching its antitrust rules, citing "abusive practices in online advertising." It said the online giant abused the dominance of its search engine to block rivals from selling text ads on the search results that appear on third-party sites.

The French case in question resulted from a complaint several years ago from weather forecast website operator Gibmedia, which argued that Google had unfairly blocked it from buying ads.

“People expect to be protected from exploitative and abusive ads and this is what our advertising policies are for," a Google representative said Friday. "Gibmedia was running ads for websites that deceived people into paying for services on unclear billing terms. We do not want these kinds of ads on our systems, so we suspended Gibmedia and gave up advertising revenue to protect consumers from harm. We will appeal this decision.”