Like so many of its other services, Google Maps is free. Users tend to love this, but Bottin Cartographes doesn’t. The mapping service recently sued Google France, claiming that Google Maps service was anti-competitive.
The issue raised by Bottin Cartographes during the lawsuit was that Google Maps is provided to the public as a free service in order to drive competitors out of the marketplace. Bottin Cartographes offers the same services as Google Maps does, but charges a fee for it. The complaint of the plaintiff is that Google offers their services at a lower cost than competitors, despite taking a loss. The idea is that Google’s massive size can sustain the company during the time of loss, and that they can eventually gain control of the market. This practice is illegal in France, as well as throughout much of the world. According to the plaintiff, the practice also made it impossible for Bottin Cartographes and other mapping services to compete.
The Paris court hearing the case apparently saw the issue in the same light as the plaintiff, and this week ruled in favor of Bottin Cartographes. Google France, along with parent company Google, now is ordered to pay 500,000 euros to the plaintiff along with an additional 15,000 euro fine also being levied. In total, the fines represent about a $700,000 loss for Google.
What’s remarkable about the ruling is that Google was only ordered to pay 515,000 euros. For a company that’s as large as Google is, that total represents little more than drop in the bucket. It seems that, if Google was competing illegally, the total fine would have represented a worthwhile price for the allegedly ill-gotten gains. No demands have yet been made by the court for Google to change the business model of its Google Maps service, and none seemed imminent at the time of the ruling.
Despite the ruling, it doesn’t seem that this will be the end of the case. The court battle between Google France and Bottin Cartographes lasted for more than two years prior to this ruling, so the case was drawn at to begin with. A Google France spokesman also said that the company has plans to appeal the decision. In a statement, the spokesman said that Google still believes that a free mapping tool is beneficial for users. Based on the comments of the spokesman, the case seems like it might drag out for several more months due to appeals.
This isn’t the first time that Google’s business practices have been challenged. A company named British Telecom recently sued Google over its mapping services, claiming that it violated some of the company’s navigation patents. In another instance, Google was fined 100,000 euros for its handling of user privacy. That came as a result of a judgment by France’s data privacy regulator regarding the Google Street View service.
Despite these setbacks, don’t look for Google to change its business practices. Everything it’s done so far has been working. Despite these minor pitfalls, Google likely sees it as in their best interest to continue doing business as it always has.