French Court Fines Google $660,000 Because Google Maps Is Free

Google Removes Maps Reviews That AreGoogle faces a $660,000 fine after a French court ruling that the company is abusing its dominant position in mapping by making Google Maps free.

According to The Economic Times, the French commercial court “upheld an unfair competition complaint lodged by Bottin Cartographes against Google France and its parent company Google Inc. for providing free web mapping services to some businesses.”

Bottin Cartographes provides mapping services for a cost, and its website boasts several business clients such as Louis Vuitton, Airbus and several automobile manufacturers.

The French court ruling requires Google to pay $660,000 (500,000 Euros) in damages and interest to Bottin Cartographes, along with a 15,000 Euro fine. That means Google’s total cost from the ruling is about $680,000.

A Google France spokesperson says the company is still studying the court’s decision and reviewing its options, adding that Google is “convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites.”

As you can see from the related stories listed below, this is far from the first time that the French have raised legal issues with Google.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Google: Legal | Google: Maps & Local | Google: Outside US | Legal: General | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Bobby Gaglini

    Am I missing something? It doesn’t seem like Google did anything wrong THIS time. If Google wants to make their Maps free, that’s their prerogative, and our gain.

  • http://www.steveintheukok.co.uk SteveINtheUKok

    Those French can be infuriating sometimes, now you see why us British complain so much about them ;-)

    A crazy ruling, to protect a local company. France is a member of the European Union, I have no doubt that this ruling will be overturned, it is anti-competitive in favour of the local, French, company that does not even produce products in the same marketplace as Google, Googles maps are electronic, this other companies I would guess are not or not in the majority.

    Good luck Google, i’d hate to be without Google Maps or Google Streetview, so I feel sorry for the Belgians and Germans, etc who choose not to be part of this.

  • http://www.ecostrategie.com O.Verdure-Labeille

    Hi “perfidalbionais” :)
    I’m French and I just wanted to say I do agree with you !
    Now we have a court that reward companies for not doing their basic technological watch job, for not having the spirit to invent smarter business model than the big competitor, well, for not managing properly their own business.
    Plato, in The Republic, said that it was a very bad sign for a society when you have more and more people going to see the doctor or the judge.
    Here we are in France, in that country where we always prize ourselves for “not having petroleum but have ideas instead”… suiting smarter ones. What a shame, honestly.

  • http://mantywebdesigns.com/ georgemanty

    It is actually real similar to the French economic idea espoused in Bastiat’s Petition from the candlemakers…
    http://bastiat.org/en/petition.html

    And yes, it’s seriously messed up!

  • Doan

    Are you telling me, that in France, if you give something away for free, that another company charges for, that company can sue you?

    And here I thought you got sued for outlandish things in the US. France just one-upped us.

  • http://www.google.co.uk Neville Holland

    Yawn…

  • Rodrigo Salas-Pombo

    Michelin maps are also free and I don’t see any court taking any action against them. Ahhhhh!!!, it’s because it’s a French company. i see now!!!!. SAME RULES FOR EVERYONE EVERYWHERE!!!!! That’s how we create a real democracy. The rest, just Influence and Information Traffic for those who can pay. Google pays only a 2,5 % of their income outside the US in Taxes. SAME RULES FOR EVERYONE EVERYWHERE!!!!!. Hey!!!!!, you got the crysis and the solution to it right there!!!

  • Mircea Patachi

    This looks like “Candlemakers’ petition” reloaded… Bastiat wrote about this superficial thinking in 1845 … you may find the petition here: http://bastiat.org/en/petition.html… and yes, it was addressed to the French government.

  • Robert

    Amazing! as a cartographer, Google user and lover of free stuff, I am blown away by this narrow minded (favoring the French aristocracy) reaction of the French courts…Google should only charge the French Government for the use of their maps. The Court is wrong! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

  • http://www.catchapponline.com Moritz Flögel

    I don’t think this is about Google giving things out for free and the other company charging for it. It is about the fact that Google is too big and can basically enter any industry without worrying about price and competition. This is simply a ruling against the creation of a monopoly. Everybody understood that if AT&T would have bought T-Mobile, AT&T’s market power and dominance would have been unmatched; hence the deal didn’t go through. Now think about what happens if Google enters an industry and offers their products for free. Unless they compete with Apple, Facebook and/or Amazon, Google will always win the battle. Sure, companies can innovate but 1) what is there to innovate with maps and 2) it costs a lot of money to compete in a market that already offers products for free.

  • http://amnaytech.blogspot.com/ A.T.

    Google should only charge the French Government for the use of their maps

  • http://www.NJStangers.org N.M.

    I don’t understand who would complain about a free service? This is the dumbest lawsuit in my book. I’d be glad to have such a free and useful service….thank God i’m in the U.S. where we don’t sue people over free services lmao.

  • http://leandrorache.factor21.org Leandro Rache

    Bla bla…, in this case the cost is irrelevant, the business go to other side or die !!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brianstevencrouch Brian Crouch

    I expect the French court to fine the Seine river for providing free water, which hurts companies such as Perrier and Evian. That’s just plain anti-competitive, right there.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rickpenatrothstaffing Rick Penabella

    So stupid. What if Google was originally French? Jealous pricks.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/rogersill Roger Sill

    Socialist Politics, Socialist Ideology, The Religion of Socialism based in Marxism leads to this type of decision under powerful centralized governments who practice aggressively that they know better than individuals that transact their affairs between each other in the daily efforts to serve one another through working within groups identified as companies. Socialists are fools that usurp the power of the individual at every opportunity because Marxist Theology practices usurping the position of God Almighty over the individual, and is directly at war against God Almighty by every action that thieves the rights that God has endowed to every human. Roger Sill – recruiter.roger@gmail.com

  • http://www.bahamaslocal.com/?twitter Jay

    why shouldn’t it be free. !!! I agree with Bobby.. If Google wants to make their Maps free, that’s their prerogative, and our gain. Who wants to use Bottin Cartographes anyway..

  • Scott Krukowski

    It was my understanding that anti-trust laws were established to prevent price fixing from occurring at higher than market equilibrium prices, not to mandate a charge for an entity’s product to give away for free. However, this decision raises an interesting question, is it anti-competitive behavior for Company A to provide free features to the public in which these same features are actually products for Company B and if by offering these free features, Company A increases its competitive advantage?

  • M.V.

    You can see it as a form of dumping or predatory pricing. Have one part of the business financed by another one and kill the competition by giving things away basically.
    And if you think that Google gives the service for free then you’re a little bit naive….you are the product as they take all your online activity to sell it to advertisers.

  • Mary Williams

    Moritz: Google isn’t really a monopoly holder in the Maps industry because they aren’t buying out Bottin, or Mapsco, or any other cartographes. They are providing a free service, which is only giving them the benefit over Bottin. Your comparision of Google to AT&T isn’t valid. AT&T charges for their service and had plans to buy T-Mobile making them closer to a true monopoly. By them doing so would give consumers less of a choice on who they can choose for their wireless provider. But Google offering Google Maps for free doesn’t restrict consumers on who they can use for mapping. It just makes them lean more towards Google, because most would rather have something for free than to have to pay for it. Consumers can still use Bottin if they want to pay for the service, or use Google, or any other free mapping service, if they don’t. Their choices are not being limited.

  • http://yieldcalculator.org Alan

    I don’t hate or love G, I am practical so I work with it. However it looks like some of the French truly detest big G

  • O.O.

    They’re not being fined for making free software, idiots.
    They’re being fined because businesses and corporations are using it to create other mapping software and its removing variety from the market because no-one else can compete with it, since its free.
    Its basically an anti-trust case because France has some of the hardest anti-trust laws in all of the western world to protect their customers from market monopolization.
    Its still bullshit but that’s the real reasoning behind it. It has nothing to do with the fact users get it for free and it isn’t a conspiracy against anyone.

    Take off your tinfoil hats for a few minutes, guys.

    Its a set of very stiff rules that happen to have backfired, but because of their great power for good, must be withheld.

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk Nathaniel Bailey

    So let me get this right, in France, if someone provides a paid service for something, you cant then offer a similar service for free?

    Is it just me or does that sound a little wrong?! Do they not have free swimming pools and other free services in France? Should they not be fined next because other swimming pools charge for people to swim?

    This is just plan silly, the French really need to get their heads tested if they think its ok to randomly fine companies (and even people I would guess!?) just for offering a free service which another company charges for.

    And as a comment above said, now the rest of the world can see why us English put the French down so much, because they have such a strange way of looking at things and do so many pointless things like wrongly fine a company for offering a free service which is good for its fellow country men!

  • http://myspace.com/markomusic Mark Lechman

    Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Here’s something you younger generation probably don’t know and most older interneteers don’t remember. Back in the 1990s there was a small company called Netscape that was selling a new kind of software. This software allowed users to connect to the internet and to browse web pages, and like most other pieces of commercial software, you had to pay actual money for it. Yup, you went down to your local CompUSA and plunked down hard-earned cash for a cardboard box that held within it the promises of a new digital frontier. As the popularity of the internet (and Netscape) grew, a little company called Microsoft decided it wanted in on the internet game too. After all, the net was a young, emerging technology and no one had yet claimed any significant piece of it. So in order to get its virtual foot in the digital door, Microsoft attempted to negotiate deals with the biggest player in internet software at that time, Netscape. Well Netscape wouldn’t have it. They stood their ground and refused to play ball with Microsoft (and I don’t blame them). So how did Gates and Co. respond? By developing a competing internet browser which was given away for FREE (It’s free? Gee they must really love their users!). At that price, how much more incentive do you need to choose one browser over another? Free versus $29.99? That’s a no-brainer. And what’s more, Microsoft made their browser compatible with the vast array of popular plugins that had been developed for Netscape’s browser. Well they weathered the storm for a while and put up a good fight but it was clear that this little company, that actually depended on their browser sales in order to run their business, was fighting a losing battle. In the end, Internet Explorer grabbed the lion’s share of the browser market while Netscape eventually faded away. And here we are roughly 20 years later and Internet Explorer still has the largest share of the browser market at something like 30%. 20 years folks. That’s how long we’ve been paying for the mistake of taking candy from a stranger. Let’s not do that again, please.

  • http://twitter.com/0_inspiration Max Steiner

    Christ  almighty, all the people wondering why the French would impose a fine need to google “destroy pricing”, I cannot believe how blind the fanboys are as to what the company is doing, its not even an obscure tactic!

  • http://twitter.com/benthefrog Benedicte

    This has nothing to do with France! It’s the company itself who is wrong…not the entire nation, thank you very much….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=503234895 Mitch Aki

    Damn skippy…poor people should not be able to use maps!

  • http://www.eseoconsultant.org/ SEO Consultant Shane Hunter

    Who is John Galt?

    This is trite… Google is being taken down on multiple fronts right now by people whining about unfairness… It’s not Google’s fault – it your fault for not being competitive and awesome enough!

  • http://www.developmentcatalyst.blogspot.com/ Development Catalyst Admin

    Hm m m m m.I don’t think this is right.Google please make up an excellent lawyer about this.:-)

  • J fremlin

    This is one of the stupidest reasons for fines that I have ever seen. I’ll say this though. As long as Google keeps it’s maps system free, I see no problem. BUT: If Google set up the free system, became the #1 player in the market, THEN started to charge for the app once the competition is all but gone, THEN I would have a big problem with Google. But I see that as more of an Apple move, than a Google move. I hate apple…

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