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  • Google's logo at the European Engineering Center in Zurich, Switzerland, July 19, 2018.

    Google's logo at the European Engineering Center in Zurich, Switzerland, July 19, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 December 2019

The U.S. tech giant has been abusing its dominant position in the online advertising market.

France's Authority of Competition Friday fined Google US$167 million for abusing its power over the treatment of advertisers, for it applied opaque rules and changed them at will.

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"Google has abused its dominant position 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 regulator said.

The French bureau of competition is an independent antitrust institution that monitors anticompetitive practices, provides expertise on market functioning and reviews merger transactions.

Currently, 90 percent of virtual searches made by French Internauts are done through Google, which also controls over 80 percent of the Internet advertising market.

As a consequence of this, the antitrust authority considers that the company "is obliged to define the operating rules of its advertiser platform in an objective, transparent and non-discriminatory manner."

The U.S.-based company's rules, however, "are not based on any precise and stable definition, which leaves Google free to interpret them according to situations."​​​​​​​

"Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA): It is Japan's turn to take strong action against the web giants, especially Google and Facebook. A new law to fight their abuse of dominant position is expected on Tuesday, Dec. 17."

Google has also modified its interpretation of its own rules, which generates "legal and economic insecurity" to advertisers, to whom the company does not inform them about changes in regulations.

The French authorities also consider that Google discriminately applies its own rules because it suspends the ads of some companies and allows similar ads from others.​​​​​​​

All these practices led anti-trust regulators to conclude that Google’s search engine has prevented advertising from advertisers with innovative strategies and has devised “a deliberate and global strategy aimed at disrupting competition.”​​​​​​​

Google is set to appeal against the regulator's decision and has had previous run-ins with French authorities.

In September, Google agreed to pay US$1 billion to settle disputes with French tax authorities, which began four years ago.

In January, France's National Data Protection Commission​​​​​​​ (CNIL) fined Google US$55 million for breaching the European Union's online privacy rules.

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