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France: Paris Commercial Tribunal Found Google Maps Guilty of Unfair Competition

(Feb. 13, 2012) On February 1, 2012, the Paris Commercial Tribunal found Google and its French subsidiary guilty of unfair competition. The plaintiff, the French cartography company Bottin Cartographes, claimed that Google was abusing the dominant position of its Google Maps application in providing temporarily free web mapping services to some businesses with the aim of undercutting competitors; the ultimate goal would be to control the market. Bottin Cartographes provides the same services to businesses for a fee. (Google Maps: Google condamné en France pour abus de position dominante, LEMONDE.FR (Feb. 2, 2012).)

Google was required to pay €500,000 (about US$650,000) in damages to the plaintiff and a €15,000 (about US$19,500) fine. The tribunal also ordered the publication of the judgment in the following newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Tribune, and Les Echos. (Id.) Google will appeal the decision. Its representative stated, “we are convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites owners. Competition in this sector remains real to us, both in France and internationally.” (Id.)

This is not the first time that Google has encountered difficulties in France. On March 17, 2011, the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés (National Commission on Information Technology and Liberty) fined Google €100,000 (about US$141,000 at the time the fine was imposed) for violating French data privacy laws. (Nicole Atwill, France: Google Fined by National Commission on Information Technology and Liberty, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Mar. 25, 2011).)