Google was hit with a $593 million fine by France’s antitrust watchdog on Tuesday for not properly complying with orders to hold talks with news publishers in “good faith” and for failing to create plans to pay them for their content.
In addition to levying the fine, France’s antitrust authority said the US tech giant now has two months to present a new plan to pay publishers. If the company fails to do so, France plans to slap the company with additional fines of more than $1 million per day.
The French fine comes as countries around the world seek to force companies like Google and Facebook route traffic to news sites to share a larger portion of their revenue.
In February, Australia passed a law requiring Google and Facebook to pay for news — and New York Post parent company News Corp. negotiated its own global deal with Google to reportedly be paid “tens of millions” of dollars to provide news content during the same month.
But the French fine — which was brought in response to complaints by French news publisher Agence France-Presse, as well as industry groups representing major newspapers like Le Monde and Le Figaro — shows Google has a long way to go before it reaches a truce with regulators and publishers.
French regulators say they ordered Google in 2020 to hold fair talks over payments for news within three months of any news publisher requesting them — and accuse Google of failing to comply.
During negotiations, Google allegedly “restricted the scope of negotiation without justification,” including by requiring publishers to participate in a new partnership program called “News Showcase.” These restrictions violated the government’s order to negotiate in good faith, France’s antitrust authority said.
“When the authority decrees an obligation for a company, it must comply scrupulously, both in the spirit and letter (of the decision). Here, this was unfortunately not the case,” France’s antitrust chief, Isabelle de Silva, said in a statement.
Google responded that it was extremely disappointed with the fine and rejected accusations that it had acted in bad faith.
“We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms,” a spokesperson said.
“Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority’s feedback into consideration and adapt our offers,” the company added.
With Post Wires