Matt Atlas

France Fines Google €500 Million In Latest Antitrust Action

The French competition authority has fined the US Internet company Google half a billion euros (CZK 12.8 billion) for failing to reach an agreement with news publishers. Google has faced accusations by French publishers APIG, SEPM, and the AFP news agency for not dealing with them in good faith about rewards for receiving their content. In April last year, Google ordered the conduct of such negotiations. If the publisher asked the American company to do so, it should take place within three months.

“It’s the most severe fine,” said Isabelle De Silva, head of the antitrust office. Her institution has not yet imposed such a large sentence for non-compliance with its regulation.

Google also ordered publishers and news agencies to submit a proposal for rewards for using currently protected content within two months. If the company is late with the offer, it will pay a fine of up to 900,000 euros for each day.

Google called the decision of the French authority a great disappointment. “The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, as well as the reality of intelligence on our platforms,” said a spokesman for the US company. working with publishers and news agencies to find common ground, “the company said.

One of the parties to the dispute on the part of the publishers remains APIG, which represents most of the French print media – including the newspapers Le Figaro and Le Monde. This is despite the fact that it has already signed a framework agreement with Google. However, according to Reuters sources, it was suspended and a decision of the antitrust authority is awaited.

Google ordered negotiations with publishers last April. However, the publishers turned to him together with the AFP agency in September, stating that the American company did not respect the regulation.

The Antimonopoly Office today accused Google of trying to narrow down the bargaining power by not including media content taken over by the media, such as photographs. He also excluded the political and general information press from the discussions, De Silva said, adding that Google did not provide publishers with the information necessary to determine the price transparently.

AFP said today that an agreement with Google is approaching. This is according to the statement of its director Fabrice Fries and the statement of the head of Google France Sébastien Missoffe.

French media companies have long accused Google of benefiting from its search engine dominance and trying to avoid complying with copyright laws. They lodged a complaint with the Office for the Protection of Competition in that case in 2019.

The Czech businessman Daniel Křetínský, who became a major shareholder in the daily Le Monde in October 2018 and also owns publications such as Elle, Marianne, Version Fémina and Télé 7 Jours, is also interested in the French media market. Last November, Křetínský spoke out against the copyright agreement that Google had offered to the French print media.