Google’s fine in France of 1.1 million euros ($1.3 million) might seem small, but the reason behind the fine will hurt the company’s reputation much more than the financial loss.
An investigation by the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) that began in 2019 determined that there had been misleading ranking of hotels by Google, specifically on Google’s search engine.
Google had replaced the Atout France classification with its own algorithmic rating system for hotels in its search and maps platforms with a star-rating system powered by its own criteria. In fact, Google applied it to more than 7,500 locations.
“This classification was greatly confused by its presentation and by the identical use of the term 'stars' on the same scale from 1 to 5, to classify accommodation tourism,” the DGCCRF wrote in a press release.
The DGCCRF said the practice misled consumers “about the level of services what they could expect when booking accommodation.”
In 2020, the National Investigation Service of the DGCCRF sent the Paris Public Prosecutor's Office the findings, concluding that Google was in violation with a deceptive business practice.
Google Ireland Ltd and Google France corrected their practices after the agreement of the public prosecutor of Paris, along with paying the fine, but the lingering effects could continue to present challenges for the companies, at least in the immediate future.
The platforms now use the official ranking issued by Atout France, according to the DGCCRF.