On 30 June 2010, the French Competition Authority (the 'Authority') stated that Google had implemented the content policy of its online advertising service, AdWords, in a way which lacked objectivity and transparency and resulted in discriminatory treatment. The Authority considered that Google's behaviour was seriously and immediately prejudicial to all advertisers including Navx, the company which had submitted the complaint.

 The Authority thus ordered the implementation of several interim reliefs (see Community Week Issue 478), including restoring Navx's AdWords account and imposing new, more transparent conditions.

Google's proposed commitments are aimed at increasing transparency of its online advertising service AdWords regarding the GPS navigation devices (the 'Devices') in France.  The commitments proposed were the following (see Community Week Issue 481):

  • to clarify, on the particular AdWords page relating to the Devices, whether the policy also applies to speed camera alarms and to databases that indicate the location of speed cameras;
  • to clarify, on the particular AdWords page relating to the Devices, whether the bans enacted by this policy apply only to the contents of the advertisements or also to the websites of the advertisers;
  • to publish the changes to the AdWords policies concerning the Devices in France on a new "log history page" on the AdWords blog; and
  • to clarify, on the AdWords page relating to the Devices, that the breach of this policy can lead to the refusal of the submitted advertisements, the suspension of an advertiser's AdWords account and/or that advertiser being prohibited from creating new AdWords accounts.

On 28 October 2010, the Authority announced that the commitments were "substantial, credible and verifiable", and thus sufficient to address competition concerns raised during the investigation.  Consequently, the Authority closed the case.

While the antitrust investigation has been put to rest, Google still faces a seven million euro damages claim launched before the Paris Commercial Court earlier this month by Navx.

To view Community Week, Issue 495 – 29 October 2010 in full, click here.

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