back to article French court lays le smackdown on Google Maps

A French court has found Google Maps guilty of unfair competition and ordered the Chocolate Factory to pay a fine and damages to a French mapping firm. Bottin Cartographes had complained to the court that Google France and its parent Google were creating a dominant position for themselves in the market by providing their web- …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google Maps API

    Well Google Maps did exactly that with their API - started completely free and then began charging business customers quite a bit (Maps API for Business starts at $10,000 a year) after killing most of the competition, so the French authorities have a point there...

    1. Bakunin

      But that means there is now a perfect opportunity for competition; provide a good mapping API for $5,00 a year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For Google to kill again by returning to a "free" service?

        Even the French are not that crazy.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Big Brother

          A free product! Oh no the CAPITALISM!

          Also, "Amazon kills books", "Ford kills horses" etc.

          Meanwhile, you actually have to *pay* for *copyrighted* maps that are made by government outfits.

      2. LarsG

        THIS IS JUST

        frenchie protectionism, otherwise known as Sarkozy Fever.

        Thank goodness for the channel.

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Actually, it isn't

          It is a well established feature of French law that you can't sell at a loss in order to destroy the competition. Even supermarkets are not allowed loss-leaders.

          Whether Google is actually making a loss on maps is different matter.


        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Gosh appears

          Sarkozzzzy has lots of friends on here.

          1. captain veg Silver badge

            pas mon ami

            Can't stand the guy. This has nothing to do with him.


    2. Drew V.

      Yes, it's not just about whether it is free or not, judged independently from the specific context. Freetards getting in a huff about that part are missing the point. You have to look at the company's entire strategy and how it changed through time.

  2. Bumpy Cat

    ... What?

    They're being fined for providing a free product?

    Did Microsoft get fined for providing IE free? Will the Catholic church be fined for providing free counselling?

    Sounds like French protectionism to me ...

    1. Northern Fop

      Did Microsoft get fined for providing IE free?

      It was seen as unfair behaviour, meaning that Windows must offer you a choice of browsers. It just so happens that the competition is free too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Did Microsoft get fined for providing IE free?"

      Actually, they did in the US antitrust case.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward

        "Did Microsoft get fined for providing IE free?"

        Actually they didn't. They got a slap in the wrist for bundling it. They could have provided it free but separated from windows and nobody would have complained.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Slap on the wrist?

          Well, it still was $750 million paid to Netscape and many more millions paid to many US states...

          One of the complaints was directly due to the "free" bit, not the bundling issue so I disagree with the "nobody would have complained". The market leader then, Netscape, was paid software, only free for non-commercial uses.

        2. Michael C

          But the otehrs were free at the time

          ...that's the difference. API for map access is not free, not even from GOOGLE, normally.

          Google Maps has always been free, to consumers, as an APP. Just as has been Yahoo, or MapQuest, or any other. But, the Google API, for map data access for businesses, to make their OWN map apps, that is not free, not even here in the USA. The only times it ever HAS been free, once google acquired sufficient market penetration, they started charging for it. Its a pattern clear as day, and anticompetitive, to push competition in that space out, and it is illegal in the entire EU (not just france).

      3. Tom 13

        Actually they didn't.

        They got fined for violating a consent agreement that was the outcome of an earlier and provable anti-trust case (lockout agreements with PC manufacturers) that also got bolluxed because the prosecutors didn't know what the hell they were doing.

        Most observers agree that the fine they did get was both too little and too late. By the time the remnants of Netscape got the money they were, well, remnants. And then the development of browsers went moribund for the next 2 or 3 years or more depending on your point of view. I mean people are still bitching because there are still a measurable number of people out there using IE6.

  3. Bakunin

    Trop de succès?

    I agree that the dominance of one provider can have an adverse effect on growth and competition within a market sector. Particularly if your product is free at the point of use.

    But is it really justifiable to fine a company for it's success?

    [Title courtesy of Google Translate. Other translation service are available]

    1. Graham Marsden
      Thumb Down


      Try searching on google for a street address, town name, country whatever. At the top or within the first few results will be a google maps image.

      There might be other mapping services available, some might even be more suitable for your use, but they're probably not going to get a look in because google is prioritising its service over any others.

      That's not success, that's abuse of a monopolistic position.

  4. NinjasFTW

    wow so if you do business in France you better not be really good at it!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      No, if you do business in France, you can't leverage your massive cash pile from one area to subsidize a loss-making service in another area, and in doing so stifle competition.

      As another Regtard pointed out, they offered a free mapping service for which they now charge, which kind of blows the "it's not free, it's ad-supported" idea out of the water.

      1. Christoph

        "subsidize a loss-making service in another area, and in doing so stifle competition."

        Unless you're a farmer.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        But if you're the French Government then you just reorganise the state owned industries so that the bit you want to subsidize at the moment ends up in the same group as the Nuclear Power business ... at least that's how it seemed that it used to work

      3. Doug Glass

        Sure you can. Just pay the fine and keep making money hand over fist. Simple.

      4. NinjasFTW

        and how is that different to how every other company works?

        dont Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo all make a loss on their gaming platform in order to make money from their software divisions?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    This is just stupid...If Google are fined then so should Bing be, and open street map....And perhaps more relevant to this case, Géoportail who run the french governments free mapping service according to wikipedia...

    1. Michael C

      the API is not free

      Consumer access to an app is one thing. Business access to map data through Google's or someone else's API to make their OWN app (even not just a map itself, but to display location information in virtually any kind by doing lookups of Google;s data through that API), that is not free. Not in the USA, not for android device makers, but for France, it WAS made free, to squeeze an existing entrenched company out of that market.

      Google did this more than in just france.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the gallic whiff of protectionism

    No wonder France lost its Triple-A, and the Euro is getting screwed.

    1. captain veg Silver badge


      USA too lost its triple-A rating, and the Euro continues to look pretty strong against both the greenback and sterling.

      Still, don't let the facts get in the way.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > Euro continues to look pretty strong against both the greenback and sterling.

        What, you mean the way it has been steadily falling against both for the last three months?!

        > Still, don't let the facts get in the way.


        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Strong != strengthening

          It's dropped about 3.5% against the British spondulick -- wow! -- but it's still strong, in historic terms. It's not that long ago that a pound bought you EUR1.60 and there was parity against the dollar, so I hardly think the epithet "screwed" is appropriate.


      2. Tom 13

        Right, that why US bond payment rates

        are still in the basement instead of sky rocketing the way they ought to be given all the money the Fed has been printing - because all that US and European money is flocking to the Euro which is backed by those Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Irish examples of financial competence.

        Look, I'm not saying our economy isn't in the shitter over here, it's just that somehow you guys seem to keep doing so much worse that we look decent by comparison. I really wish that weren't true, because if you guys looked better, I'd have a bigger stick with which to beat the morons on this side of the pond.

      3. Mr Nobody 1

        Unscrewed ?`

        ...if you define 'continues to look pretty strong' as having lost 10% of its value against GBP since July.

        Sorry to let facts get in the way.

      4. Daniel 4

        S&P worthless as a credit ratings agency

        "USA too lost its triple-A rating..."

        Actually, the USA losing it's triple-A is one of the biggest reasons to not worry with the same happening to France. It was patently obvious from the way that S&P handled the American rating that it was completely disconnected with reality. In addition, little of what we would expect to happen from a true lack of creditworthiness appears to be true. Truth be told, I'd call for an investigation into whether or not S&P stands to profit from disruptions in Sovereign credit - both for the American AND the French credit rating cut.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course...

      ...all of the UK's & US' markets are free and open ain't they?

      So no trade restrictions on food and electronic goods and cars and white goods and and....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > ..all of the UK's & US' markets are free and open ain't they?

        A hell of a lot more so than French markets are, yes. And I speak as a French resident.

        True, the rules are supposed to be the same, but "vive l'exception française" as always.

  7. Doug Glass

    For Google just a cost of doing business like UPS racking up parking tickets. Fines are figured into normal operating expenses and basically have little to no effect. BFD.

    1. Tom 13

      Having once worked for a delivery service:

      no, it doesn't work that way. Tickets can't be expensed back to the company, and they can't be deducted as a cost. It comes straight out of the driver's pocket when they get a fine. Now the company probably does have a broader agreement with the local municipality with regard to being a recognized delivery vehicle than your local pizza boy, but that's a horse of a different color.

  8. jai


    I so read that as Boffin Cartographes and I was, for a small moment, quite overjoyed that someone had a company with such a wonderful name. And then i realised I've misread it...

    1. The Mole

      You weren't the only one that made that mistake!

  9. G C M Roberts

    Based on this logic, Google should introduce a pay per search feature for French customers.

    Bonjour, voulez-vous faire un search? C'est 0,50€.

    Perhaps Alcatel can sue oriental companies for making cheaper electronics than it?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm, odd...

    I do tend to agree with this judgement, but it's odd that the SNCF are the only company allowed to run trains on French rails, all international services are forced to partner with SNCF in order to run their services across France. Ellipsos (the hoteltrain people) and Eurostar are both technically half SNCF. This is annoying the hell out of other operators, like Deuche Bahn, who want to run services into London or across France, but don't want to partner.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's only odd

      to people living in countries run by those make a virtue out of being suckers!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Downvote all you like, suckers

        but you have still lost the argument until our railways are as good value as those in France.

  11. Big_Boomer


    What Google need to do is rename their service in France to "Googlé", make sure that Le Président de Googlé is a prominent Frenchperson, and finally start doing designer "Googlé" headers on their search page commemorating Charles de Gaulle, Brigitte Bardot, Louis de Funès and other famous Frenchpersons.

    Others could follow suit with Mozilla FeuRenard, Microdouce Bureau 2010, and of course the French almost certainly already love the stylish designer products of Pomme. ;-)


      US Style

      I think so long as you dress the product in US glitz (think modernity in Bordeaux), or the glaring carousal complete with Micky & Daffy, then the French will love it. They like to [poorly] imitate US fashion and culture. Just look at all those post-war 1960-1980 buildings :D



    The supermarkets did the same with the butchers, bakers greengrocers and milkmen. Undercut them out of existence, and then put their prices up to making a profit again once the small businesses were out of business.

    The small businesses did not stand a chance, and we gained KingsMill foam bread, hormone enhanced milk, and tasteless fruit and veg. The butchers probably left the country, and no one will every be fathers by the twinkle in a milkman's eye.

    The supermarkets got away with it. Regardless of the outcome of the French court-case, Google has pretty much won :( I support the token gesture of the fine meted out.

    Bigger businesses win: Look, in every country one can legally sell cigarettes to teenagers in the safe knowledge that these will cause life threatening disease.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Of course, now that people have twigged on to what the supermarkets are doing, small butchers and delis are springing up again, as entrepreneurs (oh look, it's a French word) are seeing the opportunities. What comes around goes around, and trade keeps it alive.

      As for cigarettes, I'm a strong supporter of the idea that the minimum age for purchase should be raised by one year per year, until it gets to, say, 21. Won't hurt the current addicts, but might slow down the rate of new addictions.

  13. Caltharian

    Im wondering how long it will be before google pulls out of france completely.

    It seems that half of the court cases that google faces are because one french company or anothers profits are down.

  14. Tigra 07

    Crazy and uncompetitive!

    If i move to France and make something similar to what someone else makes can i then sue because they have an advantage and more of a foothold in the country?


    If Google's doing better then get off your arse and lower your prices and compete

    This is just uncompetitive what the French government's response is

  15. Andy the ex-Brit


    Bastiat has been rolling over in his grave for a very long time, but his angular velocity just increased by 3%. See "A PETITION From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting."

  16. Shockfire


    Absolutely bonkers. This is like Sky suing Freeview just because it's free. Adobe suing GIMP. Waitrose suing Asda because it's cheaper. Private hospitals suing the NHS (ok, maybe a bit different)...

    The only reason anyone could agree with this is bias Google-hatred (In this case - "the underdog wins" syndrome).

    Or one for right up your alley - how about The Times (now subscription based) suing El Reg?

    Ahwell, doesn't surprise me that the French legal system is *that* crazy.

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