French courts fines Google for offering free mapping services

By on February 2, 2012, 9:43 AM

Google Maps can be a godsend for travelers visiting a new city or even locals wandering into an unfamiliar location. However, at least according to a commercial court in Paris, offering this service for free constitutes unfair competition and thus the company must now pay upwards of $660,000 in damages and fines.

The complaint was brought against Google a couple of years ago by Bottin Cartographes, which offers mapping services to businesses for a fee. The French company argued that Google's strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market.

"We proved the illegality of [Google's] strategy to remove its competitors. The court recognized the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application," the company boasted in a statement.

Bottin is set to receive $660,000 in damages and interest from Google, while the search giant must pay an additional $20,000 fine. Of course, Google said it will appeal the court's decision, adding that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites, and that there is still plenty of competition in the mapping business both in France and internationally.




User Comments: 33

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

You have got to be kidding?! If I was google, I wouldn't even bother in france after that outcome.

example1013 said:

HAHAHAHAHA AHA AHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHA.

And people think US business laws are ridiculous.

Scshadow said:

This is why humanity can't have good things. Some assholes is always going to try and ruin it.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Hurry, lets make it illegal to give anything for free. Make it a law against giving Christmas gifts from underneath the tree without selling them first.

And people think US business laws are ridiculous.
They are ridiculous.

example1013 said:

cliffordcooley said:

Hurry, lets make it illegal to give anything for free. Make it a law against giving Christmas gifts from underneath the tree without selling them first.

And people think US business laws are ridiculous.
They are ridiculous.

Compared to French laws? One French town banned Coca-Cola. France has threatened sanctions over wine and cheese laws. And now, providing a free service is "monopolistic and anti-competitive".

Guest said:

People working on the other companies live from the money they earn giving that service, not like google than lives because is the only engine everyone use.

It is like if tomorrow a company than is the competition of the one you work gives everything for free, you should have to do the same with your job.

People want cheap things and free stuft, but.... they don┬'t want to give their jobs for free or have low salary.

It isn't that insane what happen in france if you think about it.... a little.

Guest said:

So is map quest and yahoo maps going to get fined too or are they not good enouph or known enouph !

this is so stupid

TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Wow never thought I would see anyone rule free as anti-competitive :P. This is just down right crazy. I know France had some very restrictive & odd laws but I think is takes the cake from what I have heard.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

People want cheap things and free stuft, but.... they don┬'t want to give their jobs for free or have low salary.
Times change. Mapping services no longer pays. There has been thousands of services that paid at one time and no longer pays today. Time for mapping services to be added to the list. Besides there is more to mapping services than what Google is giving for free. Mapping services can still make money from services that are not given free from Google.

Muggs said:

Just ridiculous and at best laughable and does not surprise me in the least that it is coming from France. What's next a lawsuit against email from the snail mail purveyors.

Guest said:

As surprizing as it looks, this court decision is completely understandable.

- in France, almost everybody use Google (> 92%) => dominant market position.

- Google favours its Gmaps service in their results => abuse of dominant market position.

- Google offers Gmpas service for free while they are paying for it (suppliers are TELEATLAS and NAVTEQ) (In fact, they use the adds to pay themself) => abuse of dominant market position.

==> No fair competition allowed.

As a Gmaps active user, I'm very glad that the service is free though! :-D

I would add to those criticizing those laws that they are really much stupid laws in the world (especially in the US where we have so dumb lawsuits). Please, have a look at http://www.dumblaws.com.

example1013 said:

Guest said:

As surprizing as it looks, this court decision is completely understandable.

- in France, almost everybody use Google (> 92%) => dominant market position.

- Google favours its Gmaps service in their results => abuse of dominant market position.

- Google offers Gmpas service for free while they are paying for it (suppliers are TELEATLAS and NAVTEQ) (In fact, they use the adds to pay themself) => abuse of dominant market position.

==> No fair competition allowed.

As a Gmaps active user, I'm very glad that the service is free though! :-D

I would add to those criticizing those laws that they are really much stupid laws in the world (especially in the US where we have so dumb lawsuits). Please, have a look at http://www.dumblaws.com.

That's dominant market position in search engines, not in topographical services.

Obviously paid mapping services aren't going to put their results on google. It's ridiculous to claim abuse of market position for using your own map services when the other services wouldn't even want to be used the same way.

And to the last part...that's not even the argument that was used. The argument was that Google is eating the cost of it now so they can make money off it later, similar to what Wal-Mart did selling products for less than what they were worth in order to drive other stores out of business. Except I 99% guarantee you google has zero plans to ever make google maps a paid service, which is what makes the argument ridiculous in the first place.

Guest said:

- Google favours its Gmaps service in their results => abuse of dominant market position.

- Google offers Gmpas service for free while they are paying for it (suppliers are TELEATLAS and NAVTEQ) (In fact, they use the adds to pay themself) => abuse of dominant market position.

How is directing someone to your service after you go to their website abuse. Oh you can offer a free search service but don't dare make money off of it because that would be unfair. Also there are other free map sites and if you push google out guess what the others will fill that void so fast it will make your head spin.

Also the lawsuit makes the assumption that google will eventually charge and that is why they are driving out others with free service now. Which is just asinine and shows what a mickey mouse court system the french have.

Of course the Eurozone has idiotic rules when it comes to software. Look at windows version E or N and chuckle. Really windows media player was deemed unfair too.

Guest said:

I think it is stupid as well for Google to be fined for Google Maps. Although I use Map Quest more often then Google maps, are they going to fine Map Quest as well.

How about searching, it is a free service as well.

I know the French should make Google charge everyone in France for using any of their services.

TJGeezer said:

example1013 said:

Except I 99% guarantee you google has zero plans to ever make google maps a paid service, which is what makes the argument ridiculous in the first place.

No doubt that's true. Google makes plenty of money without charging users for its free services, thank you. They do it by understanding the digital economy and the value of their ads, not by charging for consumer services like Google Maps.

French mapping industry and doddering judges, say hello to the music and movie industries. You have much in common, given your ambitions to screw consumers.

BlackIrish said:

There is a bit of sense in the court's decision... not that I agree with it.

What they meant to say I think is, that Google is running the Gmaps service at a loss (paying for the expenses from ad revenue form it's search engine advertising service - Adwords), which in return makes small players that don't have other sources of income to go out of business.

Kind of like Intel deciding to start giving away free pairs of shoes to people. They are not making money from the activity (but they can easily fund it from their unrelated semiconductor sector earnings), only increasing their brand reputation and getting smaller shops to close down.

ramonsterns said:

I used t' be a privateer, then t' government took me job away and did it themselves!

Guest said:

This is the dumbest thing I have heard in a while. Map Quest offered free mapping well before Google Maps came around, but they chose to go after Google because... ?

So stupid.

Puiu Puiu said:

Google Maps isn't the only free service around. The lawsuit is stupid and google will win. i'm sure of it.

viperpfl said:

This company can't compete in the marketplace, plain and simple. You can compete with free if you offer a service that people are willing to pay for. It seems companies these days can't make money the old fashioned way. Companies that don't whine and complain are the companies that innovate. They offer customers what they want so they end up buying more.

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

The French company argued that Google's strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market.

The law is fine but this is the crux of the issue. Google has been in the game for a loooooong time and has not looked like making their service paid. Court got the ruling wrong imo.

Marv Marv said:

Don't forget that France's foreign policy is atrocious. They were one of the major backers/founders of the EU, but are still massively protectionist with their foreign policy.The EU has been tailored to fit France's ideal (hence the CAP which benefits French farmers most for example), as though France protects its own businesses interests, even to the extent of fining/shutting down competitors that harm French business' interests.

The US certainly used to do the same thing, and it wouldn't surprise me if it still did to an extent. Protectionism can be good and bad (also depends upon perspective), but in this case in particular, it's ludicrous.

pixelstuff pixelstuff said:

Why don't they just start charging if you live in France? We'll see how many French people that pisses off because they have to pay while the rest of the world doesn't. Not to mention we'd also see if the other French mapping services are even worth a mention under "fair" competition.

Then third, it really just boils down to a free money give-away in France. All you need is a half baked product like a search engine, email, calendar, cloud productivity suite, or any other similar service to Google's free offerings, start charging money for it, and then you can get some money from Google.

Guest said:

[Quote]This is the dumbest thing I have heard in a while. Map Quest offered free mapping well before Google Maps came around, but they chose to go after Google because... ?

So stupid.

Well, absolutely nobody knows or use MapQuest in France... same goes for bingmaps by the way.

Guest said:

Well the fun fact here is that Google Maps (free) have been around for longer than Bottin Cartographes (paid). The court ruling is biased against Google anyway as the French Government have a financial interest in Bottin...

http://www.1bis.com/pro/actus.asp?lang=EN

31/7/2008

"Bottin Cartographes has received a State subsidy in response to the 6th request for proposals by the Fonds Unique InterministÚriel (R&D fund for competitiveness clusters)..."

The French Government actually created an un-level playing field for Google Maps.

If I were Google I would say "thanks but no thanks" pack up and leave. they don't need offices there and the French users do 99% of the stuff online anyway so it won't impact their ad-revenue too much. I'm sure Google are paying taxes on the servers and buildings they're renting in France but the French forget that...

Guest said:

Awesome, justice at work.

A free service is deemed unfair competition because someone else out there wants to collect money for it...But whats this, people are not willing to give away money for something that is readily available free of charge - those bastards, how dare they.

Its pretty amazing that the courts so blatantly favor business interests over those of regular people.

Wait for it, In another twenty years the companies will begin suing consumers for not buying their licensed goods and instead getting their stuff for free from the internet.

lipe123 said:

What about bing maps?

This is pretty stupid really.

Guest said:

Couldn't they now sue all free mapping services since they won? And what about OpenStreetMap?

Guest said:

if google ceo got balls, cut all google services in france ......they already proved that they cant survive alone

Guest said:

All very interesting. I'm in two minds.

The french government absolutely are allowed to create an un-level playing field in favour of French companies. This isn't unique to France, every country does it. The US government tried (and still tries) very hard to stop Airbus competing with Boeing. Countries have a duty to protect there traders from massively powerful competition, like google for example.

And I don't buy that it's totally different cause it's free (even though nothing is for free - it's just that YOU don't pay cash for it), or that the two companies provide the maps in a different way - it's the service that is the same even though the media is different.

Google doubtlessly worked hard, with all there network and technical might, to make the French maps useful for the French people. I'm sure it's a great service, if not the best. But culture is the difference here. The french are protecting their peoples interest by handing out a small fine (in google terms) so that competition is kept alive and stopping a tech gaint taking complete charge of an industry.

Rasta211 said:

I think they should let the people of France vote on it.

If the french population want to pay for a french mapping service, they should be allowed to.

If the french vote to keep using a foreign free mapping service, they should be allowed to.

It would appear that the French already have this choice and they are choosing a free mapping service.

You know what else is free? air, I wonder when people are going to begin to charge for that.

veLa veLa said:

Talk about the world of huh, Google Maps with Navigation on my Galaxy S2 have saved my ass plenty of times.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why no one stops for a moment, and think that Google doesn't offer any thing for 'free'. They are simply get their revenue from targeted adv. through 'smart' usage of users' data.

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