The French competition authority is claiming that Google is being discriminatory in how they allow or disallow Adwords customers to use the syatem. The Wall Street Journal reports
France’s competition authority Wednesday said that Google Inc.’s online ad service discriminated against a client, a decision that comes amid the country’s growing concern over Google’s dominance of the lucrative French search market.
In a preliminary ruling, the Authorité de la Concurrence said that Google’s Adwords system, which prompts ads to appear alongside search results, lacked transparency and “resulted in discriminatory treatment.”
The ruling followed a complaint by Navx, a French company that provides data on the location of road traffic speed cameras and petrol prices, as well as other services and content for GPS devices. Navx said its ads were removed without warning from AdWords in 2009, and accused Google of anti-competitive practices.
Google’s take is that they had put a policy in place in 2009 to disallow ads that identify the location of speed cameras and thus avoid fines. That does sound awful sporting of them, I suppose, but the French government doesn’t see it that way.
The gist of this entire situation can be summed up by a quote from Navx’s lawyer
“The competition authority is saying that Google has a dominant position,” said Ron Soffer, Navx’s lawyer. “When you have that position you can’t just do what you want.”
This kind of ‘reasoning’ is just mind boggling to me. Just because Google is better at search and the vast majority of people in France have CHOSEN to use the service (it’s not the only game in town) then it can’t do business as it sees fit. That’s rich.
Google and France are developing a rather acrimonious relationship with the French authorities going after Google on their book scanning efforts and their street view screw-ups. Those seem to have some merit as compared to this case that primarily is saying that when you become too successful you are then going to be a ‘ward of the state’ and behave as the government dictates. That’s ridiculous.
No doubt, it’s important to keep tabs on powerful companies so they don’t abuse their earned privilege. This duty, however, has to be carried out with considerable tact so as not to restrict how business is done. It’s a fine line, tight-rope like balancing act for sure. However, to pander to the whim of every company who has been convinced by an Internet ambulance chasing lawyer that there is a case against Google is just plain stupid. Of course, lawyers are going to bring more and more of these cases to the courts because they are looking to hit the lottery. These types of rulings will only encourage this kind of practice.
So here’s the lesson for business if you are working in France. Don’t do what you do too well so that many of the French people use your service to their benefit. If you are too good and too successful the French competition authority will have to reign in your success because, well, you are too good and successful! Sounds like the French World Cup team isn’t the only thing that has lost its mind these days.
What’s your take here? Is this something that should be expected and accepted or is this truly a sign of government getting too much in the way of the free market? I know what Google would say but they are too big for me to listen ;-).
What’s on your mind?