The French Competition Authority (FCA) has fined Google $167 million (€150 million), saying the tech giant abused its dominant position in the online search advertising market.
In a statement, the French regulator said Google Ads mistreated buyers and the methods used by its ad platform are “opaque and difficult to understand.”
The FCA’s board ordered the company to clarify the rules of operation for Google Ads and the procedures for suspending accounts. It also ordered Google to establish measures to prevent and detect violations.
The fine followed a four-year investigation prompted by a complaint from Gibmedia, a French company that manages websites, that accused Google of suspending its Google Ads account without notice.
“One of the great principles of competition law is that with great power comes great responsibility,” said FCA President Isabelle de Silva. “The way the rules are applied give Google a power of life or death over some small businesses that live only on this kind of services,” de Silva said.
A spokesperson for Google said the company would appeal the decision.
Google said Gibmedia was running ads for websites that deceived users 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,” Google said in statement. “People expect to be protected from exploitative and abusive ads and this is what our advertising policies are for.”
Google controls an estimated 90% of the market share of the online search business.
In September, Google agreed to pay about $1.1 billion (€1 billion) in fines and taxes to close an investigation by French financial prosecutors into possible tax evasion.