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Google cops $790m French fine for ‘serious breaches’ of news deal

Tuesday’s fine is the latest show of strength by the French regulator as it vies with its EU and German counterparts to be the region’s toughest watchdog of US tech firms.

In recent years, the authority has tended to order behavioural changes before the end of probes, which can drag on for years. While this has spurred other antitrust agencies to emulate the tactic, Google’s defiance risked jeopardising it.

[Isabelle de Silva, president of the French agency] criticised the tech giant for offering to pay the same amount for press content it did for dictionary listings or weather information.

Earlier this year, Google reached a deal to remunerate a grouping of French newspapers – Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale. There have also been talks with magazine owners and AFP.

But de Silva said that regulators dismissed the remuneration offered by Google as “negligible.” She criticised the tech giant for offering to pay the same amount for press content it did for dictionary listings or weather information.

As part of Tuesday’s decision, Google was ordered to enter negotiations within two months of fresh requests from the plaintiff press publishers or face daily fines reaching as much as 900,000 euros a day.

Google may risk a further attack in the news case as French regulators are expected to issue a decision on the substance of the case, which may also include fines, at the end of the year.

Silicon Valley firms have been facing close French scrutiny in recent years, and Google. The search engine agreed last month to pay a €220 million penalty to settle a probe that struck at the heart of its power over online advertising and it got a €150 million fine in 2019 in a case focusing on its Google Ads platform.

The authority’s record €1.1 billion fine was issued last year against Apple after the US firm was criticized for anti-competitive agreements with two distributors over the sale of non-iPhone products such as Apple Mac computers. Apple is appealing the penalty.

Bloomberg

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