Google receives $167 million slap on the wrist from French authorities over ‘opaque ad rules’

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In what must feel like a recurring nightmare for Google execs, the company is being fined yet again over competition concerns. The French authorities have criticized Google’s “opaque and unpredictable rules” (via Reuters) for its advertising platform and levied a $167 million fine against the internet giant.

The dispute arose after French corporation Gibmedia accused Google of arbitrarily shutting down its Google Ads account without any notice. In the aftermath of the four-year-long investigation that followed, the French antitrust regulator said it found Google in breach of competition law and said it wielded undue over small business.

“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 service,” the President of the French Competition Authority said. “One of the great principles of competition law is that with great power comes great responsibility.”

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Google has said it will appeal the decision. It also defended its decision to ban Gibmedia on the basis that it was running deceptive ads that, in an ironic twist, were themselves ambiguous about 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,” the company proclaimed.

Gidmedia countered with the following: “Gibmedia has never been convicted of any deceptive practice and it’s unacceptable to see that Google, which has just been once again condemned for anti-competitive practices, has no other defense than to attack its victim.”

This isn’t the first time Google has been fined over its conduct. Earlier in the year, EU authorities slapped the company with a $1.7 billion fine for blocking ad rivals, while the FTC in September asked it to pay $170 million over alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by YouTube.

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