French spank Google for €500m over news content row

paris2The French have ratcheted up their attack on Google by slapping the tech giant with a whopping €500m (£427m) fine for riding roughshod over a ruling last year that it must negotiate a fair deal with news organisations over the use of their content.

The issue dates back to 2019, when Google decided it would not show content from EU publishers in France, on services like search and news, unless publishers agreed to let them do so free of charge.

This triggered complaints that Google was abusing its market power, and two organisations representing press publishers and Agence France-Presse (AFP) complained to the competition authority.

In April last year, the French competition watchdog – Autorité de la Concurrence – ordered Google to negotiate “in good faith” with publishers for displaying summaries of articles on its Google News service.

But instead the remuneration offered by Google was “negligible”, Isabelle de Silva, president of the French agency said, adding that the company offered to only pay the same amount for press content than it did for dictionary listings or weather information.

De Silva continued: “When the authority decrees an obligation for a company, it must comply scrupulously. Here, this was unfortunately not the case. The sanction of €500m takes into account the exceptional seriousness of the breaches observed.”

The US tech group must now come up with proposals within the next two months on how it will compensate news agencies and other publishers for the use of their news. If it fails to do so, it will face additional fines of up to €900,000 a day.

The fine is the latest in a series of rulings against the tech giant. Only last month the French competition authority hit the firm with a €220m (£189m) fine for abusing its advertising power after finding that Google’s ad management platform for large publishers, Google Ad Manager, favoured the company’s own online ad marketplace, Google AdX.

Meanwhile, the EU competition authority fined the company a record €4.34bn (£3.9bn) fine in 2018 for using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals. Google was also fined €1.49bn (£1.28bn) by the EU for blocking rival online search advertisers in 2019. That followed a €2.42bn fine in 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

In a statement issued following the latest ruling, Google said: “Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers.

“We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.”

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