On 30 June 2010, the French Competition Authority (the
"Authority") stated that Google has implemented the
content policy of its online advertising service, AdWords, in a way
which lacked objectivity and transparency and resulted in
Navx, a start-up company marketing online databases for GPS
navigation devices, submitted a complaint against Google, coupled
with a request for interim measures, alleging that Google was
implementing anticompetitive practices on the online advertising
Navx complained in particular that its contract had been
suddenly broken off by Google and that Google had discriminated
against it. In 2008 Google decided to modify, in a more
restrictive fashion, its content policy for devices aimed at
evading road traffic speed cameras. The wording of its
general conditions were however considered to lack clarity as to
whether it remained possible for manufacturers of speed camera
databases to continue to advertise. Until the beginning of
November 2009, Navx advertisements that had been the subject of
automatic cancellation had been restored on a simple request from
Navx. After that date however, Google decided unilaterally to
suspend Navx's account.
Pending a full investigation, the Authority considered that if
Google, which is considered to hold a dominant position on the
advertising market related to online searches in France, remains
free to define its content policy for admission to its AdWords
service, this policy has to be implemented in a transparent,
objective and non-discriminatory fashion. The Authority has
ordered Google, amongst other interim reliefs, to restore
Navx's AdWords account within five days and to impose new more
The facts brought to the knowledge of the Authority evidenced a
suspected lack of objectivity and transparency concerning the scope
and the impact of the ban, the process applicable in the event of a
change in conditions and the procedure followed in the event an
account is suspended. The suspected discrimination has been
evidenced by the differences in the treatment applied to different
radar database suppliers.
A final ruling remains to be issued.
To view Community Week, Issue 478; 2 July 2010 in full,
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