Google Appeals 500 Million Euro Fine Imposed By French Regulator

Tech giant Google is appealing a 500 million fine imposed by France’s Competition Authority over an alleged violation of orders to negotiate paid deals with news publishers.

In July, after complaints from publishers that Google was sidestepping France’s implementation of a new European Union copyright directive, the French regulatory authority fined Google 500 million euros ($590.4 million) and said that Google had violated its April 2020 orders to negotiate with publishers over their content that show in its search results.

Google regards the fine as out of proportion and hopes to get redress through an appeal. “We are appealing the French Competition Authority’s decision which relates to our negotiations between April and August 2020. We disagree with a number of legal elements, and believe that the fine is disproportionate to our efforts to reach an agreement and comply with the new law,” Sebastien Missoffe, Vice President and Country Manager for Google France, said on Wednesday.

Talking about compliance with the law, Sebastien Missoffe said that Google France had extended its offer to more than 1,200 press publishers and modified certain aspects of its contracts. “We share the data requested from us in order to comply with the Autorite de la concurrence’s decision,” he added.

Google has been previously accused by the French authority of not allowing news agencies, such as Agence France-Presse, to seek payment for articles that appeared on other outlets’ websites that come up in Google search results. Reportedly, Google did not provide enough information to publishers to evaluate what revenue they should receive. It was also said that the search engine giant was pushing publishers to sign deals for Google’s News Showcase product, without distinct payments for news in general search results.

Heated arguments have sprung up over how and whether tech companies, such as Google, should pay publishers for news that is made available through their platforms. Publishers have long debated that they are entitled to a share of revenue since news is a major source of income for tech companies, such as Google.

In its decision made in July, the French regulatory authority also said that Google would be faced with additional fines of 900,000 euros per day, if it doesn’t come up with proposals on how it would compensate news agencies and other publishers for the use of their content, within the space of two months.

Google’s decision to appeal comes amid this ongoing palaver between publishers, tech companies, and the French regulators. The French Competition Authority, whose goal is to ensure compensation for news publishers when their work appears on websites and search engines, said that while it was unsure of how long the appeal will take, it would still require that Google pay the fine, whatever the case.

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