French court rules that it's illegally anticompetitive for Google to provide free maps API

A French court has ruled that Google's free Google Maps application API is anti-competitive and has ordered the company to pay €500,000 to Bottin Cartographes, a for-pay map company, as well as a €15,000 fine. Bottin Cartographes argued that Google was only planning to give away the service for free until all the competitors had been driven out of business and then they would start charging. This seems implausible to me, and contrary to Google's business model (give away services, make money from mining the use of those services). Google says it will appeal.

"This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent," said the lawyer for Bottin Cartographes, Jean-David Scemmama.

"We proved the illegality of (Google's) strategy to remove its competitors... the court recognised the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed. This is the first time Google has been convicted for its Google Maps application," he said.

I wonder what Bottin Cartographes will do when OpenStreetMaps finishes producing high-quality, free, public domain maps of France that can be used to create APIs of the same scope and utility?

France convicts Google Maps for unfair competition (via Engadget)


    1. Google would never do anything anticompetitive like that, because “teh openz”. Just ask Skyhook…

    2. Yeah. Google is “free” to end users, not so much to developers/web site owners that want to use their technology. In fact my understanding is that the commercial API WAS free in the US, until competition was driven out.  If my memory is correct, then such anti-competitive behavior has already occurred in other jurisdictions.

  1. To be fair, two out of three precogs saw that Google planned to start charging for maps once all its competitors had gone bankrupt.

  2. Google should just shut France off from all Google services and searches of all kinds for a week, then start taking credit card numbers for all Google services and searches of all kinds for eternity.  Just France.  Nobody else.

    1. Economic sanctions don’t work. They should just bar Bottin Cartographes from using any of their services.

    2. That’s what I’d do if I were Google. “You don’t like my free services, that’s fine. You and only you can pay”.
      I’m also suprised that Android vendors haven’t given up on countries where Apple have tried to outlaw them. “You want to make our phones illegal, fine, we’ll just sell them to the rest of the world. Enjoy your walled garden/nokia brick choice”

        1. Except for french users who aren’t related in the decision and would be pure victims of course.

          1. Grow a brain. Then the citizens will revolt against their sorry, stupid government. That’s what happened with sopa.

          2. Grow a brain? If you ask me there would be a massive public backlash against Google. The EU would sue them on the spot. Google would never be stupid enough to try such a stunt in a million years.

      1. ….and replace it with revolving images of stereotypically french things.

        Lucky for you it’s Friday – my most favourite day to troublemake:

        and a transparent png for others to get creative with:

  3. Bullsh*t like this is why Europe is a low-growth area: in order to protect a few established interests, we compromise our future.

    I love some elements of the “French model”, but this is so ridiculously detrimental to their own companies, it’s hard to believe how a judge could be so short-sighted.

    1. I agree. I lived and worked in France in IT for two years. I speak fluent French and I love much about the French system. But when it comes to tech changes, they really are backwards.

      I moved to Israel a month ago because I couldn’t take it anymore and Israel, unlike France (and much of Europe) is huge in startup growth.

    2. “in order to protect a few established interests, we compromise our future”

      Ah, yes, like SOPA, and PIPA, and other such “European bullsh*t”.

      Wait, er…

      1. If it wasn’t clear, I’m an Euronerd :) and yes, PIPA/SOPA is exactly that sort of trend, and it’s depressing. It used to be that US companies would relentlessly disrupt market after market, and our bunch of Euro aristo-capitalists would pass law after law trying to stop the world from turning; now it seems like the crap gets equally distributed across both sides of the pond.

  4. The problem is that one country is taking on one thing at a time, and other countries follow suit, I swear world industry leaders all met and drew cards. 

    What about Facebook and free advertising, wasn’t that on BB recently? And mail, there’s a shitload of free email service, document sharing and collaboration, free scan and fax services too.  Is eBay next for offering free shipping? It really is free, the products are not higher in price like other sites.

    This happens when companies refuse or can’t change with technology. But some  push forward, like in India, hugh luxury high-rise buildings that have to have water delivered and sewer hauled hauled out by hand and fuel delivered for the generators. Screw the utility companies!

  5. The Internet is breaking up into a geo-political jigsaw puzzle.

    This may be the worst reporting I’ve ever read on BB.

    It is just a first instance judgement.

    It is interesting to contrast the reactions in this case to when Europe fined Microsoft for Internet Explorer.

  6. What’s the difference between a company dumping a physical good on the market and stifling competition, and one providing a free service in the online market and stifling competition.  Any enlightened boingers care to explain why international anti-dumping laws do not cover this?  Is it normally just defined as a loss leader product and therefore exempt? OpenStreetMaps seems different as it’s a not-for-profit undertaking….

    1. The difference is that, on the internet, anyone can jam up a competitive product in weeks, not years. A good startup could cut a deal with, say, Nokia (who are all but sitting on a very high-quality service they bought a few years ago for very good money), and have a strong Maps competitor in a few months.

      This is not equivalent to the browser wars somebody mentioned above: a browser written in C++ and requiring local deployment takes much, much longer to develop and establish, and the anti-competitive behaviour of Microsoft in any space (from OEM deals to software bundling) is well-documented. As far as I know, Google has always been very fair with competition (unless, say, Facebook).

    2. I’ve only heard of OpenStreetMaps before, and never used it until now. I had never heard of  Bottin Cartographes before, but that’s fine. As a result, I looked at both. OSM is unbearably slow and pokey, with an interface that smacks of Windows 2.0 (I know I’m being unfair), while Bottin Cartographes’ website looks like something out of the late 1990s (here I’m being generous), especially with their offer to explore their products in a 3D viewer that you have to install (which made me almost feel nostalgic). My point is simple: how are you supposed to claim that Google is anti-competitive without any substance when your products are clearly non-competitive because you’ve made them suck?

      1. Regarding OSM: You did not take into account that OSM isnt just a Google Maps, its a free data source! Everyone can download all data and build an own custom Map Tools with it. You can mix the data with whatever data you have (train stations, bus lines, heat maps…). Buying a Map from BC is therefore totally stupid.

        1. There is an iPhone app, UK Map, which allows you to download any amount of 1:25,000 and 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey mapping for free, but the maps don’t include footpath data that’s in the paid-for maps. The app instead includes OSM footpath data that is continually being updated. Works fine, but the app doesn’t allow recording of tracks, which is its only real failing, as that would benefit the updating of OSM.

      2. I realise it’s not your point, but the interface to OSM is really just there to browse the map. OSM is primarily about the free data (with tools to render/use/edit). In many areas, that data far surpasses any other source (from experience, check out central London or Cambridge, UK). The point is, anyone is free to grab the OSM data (in vector form) and develop a commercial offering on top of it.

  7. Interestingly in the last couple of months the Google Maps API is no longer free, but subject to usage policies (companies pay over a certain number of views) which has led to a few large companies switching to free mapping solutions.

    This change was not in place when the action started, but I wonder if this change, this move towards charging was a response to this lawsuit.

  8. Sanction is not about doing free what Bottin makes against payment, but showing that when people use a search engine (90% of French use Google) to find a itinerary or a city, they only find and to find some other website they have to scroll a lot. As a leader, they can’t overshow their link, and they have to be impartial in referencing. If there are only Google links, there’s no way for more concurrence, as they only show their own links…

    1. So it’s also Googles fault that people like to use their search facilities and that BC are shit at SEO?

      If I search for ‘mail’, the first 2 results are the Daily Mail, with the 3rd being Google Mail (I always want google mail).

      I think all this anti-competitive stuff is bullshit anyway; keep up or GTFO – business is hard.

    2. Google have no obligation to do anything. They are the market leader because their service is the best, as determined by their volume of users. If customers don’t like what they see they will go elsewhere.

      The reason that no one wants to scroll down to find some shitty company’s site is because Google maps works fine. If these jokers had a product worth knowing about we would know
      about it.Google does not exist to channel business to one company or another through the goodness of its algorithms. They sell advertising space to companies and provide users with amazing free tools (which cost millions to build and maintain) in order to gain eyes to see said advertising. They owe no one anything.

      1. Unless there’s no “elsewhere” any more because of practices like that for which Google just got fined.

        I presume you are fully against Net Neutrality, and fully support the ISPs right to shape traffic as they see fit?

        1. But Google aren’t removing anyone from the market with their practices – I gather that this French Company, on the contrary, wants to muscle into a market in which it has an inferior product to throw into the mix.  They want to punish a company that charges for its product via a novel means (data) when in reality they’re likely to see no benefit themselves.

          Do we really need to enable that?

          If a great product is being held back from the public because of a shit product forced into the market by a big player that funds the product via other areas of the business (loss leader), that’s when it matters.  But when a good product is free and a crap product costs money – I don’t see that being an issue for a consumer.

          Also, Google does charge for its services, you pay with your data.

          If anything this is a case of the law not catching up with new and novel forms of payment.  Data is very valuable, your willingness to relinquish it doesn’t change that.

          1. The trouble is that it isn’t you who should decide whether the product is rubbish or not, but the market, and the market should be fair. If you think that it’s OK for a large company to bankrupt a smaller player through unfair subsidies, then you’ll end up with a world with just very large companies in it.
            If however the Google Maps division makes money on its own, then it’s a slightly different argument. 

          2. @onepieceman:disqus: How did people find out about products before Google? We must have all been very confused without Godgle telling us what to do.

            We are the market. If a product exists that is better than Google Maps we will find out about it and its place in search results will rise based on increased hits and links. This is how the internet works.

        2. Just like there was no “elsewhere” when altavista and yahoo were search kings, amirite? What about the people who got myspace tattoos… I imagine they thought the same about myspace as you do about google. You still haven’t explained to me why google is obligated to do as you or anyone says.. They are first and foremost dedicated to their shareholders and secondly to their users. It is their service.. they can do as they please. If you don’t like it, go back to altavista.

          Nice strawman you built there.. What has Google’s choices of how to manage their search listings got to do with net neutrality and bandwidth shaping? Try to stay on topic.

          Based on your argument I suppose you don’t buy any Chinese-manufactured products? The Chinese are the biggest and most guilty party when it comes to killing the competition though unfair subsidies as the Communist Party sets the value of the Yuan to artificially discount the price of their exports. That is killing a whole industry of competitive companies, instead of this case where the alleged victim’s product is sub-standard.

          Have you even checked the site of the jokers you are vehemently defending? When you visit their site there’s a “try it out” link. That link takes you to a (buggy) flash intro which is incorrectly aligned in safari and chunkily slow in firefox. When this terrible ‘intro’ is finished you get taken back to the page on which you clicked the “try it out link”. These guys are shit. If they can’t even properly align a flash intro then their products clearly aren’t even on the same playing field as Google Maps.

          What about Bing fr? For the search term “maps” They list Google Maps as the first TWO results. Even though they are a direct competitor to Google (both in search and in maps) they still realise that Google Maps is the best and so list it at the top themselves. Are Bottin Jokeographers going for next?

          Google haters are so easy to pick. Please point me to your rant about how itunes is killing the poor widdle record companies by strong-arming them into shit contracts, or stifling competition by only allowing media to be installed and managed via itunes. Again: their product, their choice. Get your knickers out of a knot bud. We know you hate google but try to make your arguments hold water next time before resorting to snarky irrelevance.

  9. “Bottin Cartographes argued that Google was only planning to give away the service for free until all the competitors had been driven out of business and then they would start charging. This seems implausible to me, and contrary to Google’s business model (give away services, make money from mining the use of those services).”

    Implausible, really?  Have companies never been previously known to change their business models, then?

    1. Yes, implausible. Since Bottin has a few precogs on staff, perhaps they can bolster their case to us non-precog-owning peeps by pointing to another soon-to-be case where Google has given away their service for free, then cranked the price once all the competitors are dust.

      It doesn’t have to be that far out. How about within a month from now?


      Well, how about a past incident where Google did this?

  10. This is what Rockefeller did to independent gas stations (and refineries).  He dropped the price below what they could absorb and then, when they went out of business, raised the prices dramatically.  So this argument does have historical precedent. 
    But I think it’s highly unlikely that Google was doing this.  They were matching their usual business model.  They give away free to individuals, and charge to  companies. 
    I don’t agree with the French judgement.  I think it’s silly and made with wilful ignorance.

  11. fucking judges like this should be fire instantly and made to sweep streets instead. seriously…what the hell? how could these “magistrates” even make it through primary school? the remotest sense of common sense is missing!!! or they have been bribed, which is just even worse.

    so if i give away drinking water for free i m trying to put other companies out of business and therefor criminally liable? even if i did do that its just a business approach i m taking (risking to go broke over providing free service) and then charging people. however i cant think of a single company where that practice ever worked. good example: spotify. their numbers have been abysmal since they started charging/cutting off free users.

    1. With all probability, this judge went through primary school before Larry and Sergey were even born, and “computer bugs” were real flies.

  12. The second comment got it exactly right, but I’m not sure some commenters here understand.

    The future charge would be for business use (Google Maps embedded on your site) not personal use (you go to to get directions). This has already happened in the US:

    For example, after using Google Maps for free 6 years, this company would need to pay $200,000-300,000/year:

    I don’t know if the French court’s reaction is wise or appropriate, but Google’s behavior does have some anti-competitive characteristics.

    1. Are you kidding me? The site to which you linked said Google will charge companies once they exceed 25,000 daily hits. This is reasonable considering they have to pay for the infrastructure and bandwidth to feed you those 25,000 requests. What… they should just wear costs that benefit another company?

      Perhaps such people should just start using “click for map” links instead of embedding maps on every single fucking page.

      1. It is totally reasonable for Google to charge some amount of money for this usage of maps. The issue is that they aren’t charging, at least not right away.

        The concern is that Google may be using their large amounts of capital and non-map revenue to temporarily absorb the cost of providing the maps until competing providers (who can’t offer the service for free) go out of business. That could be perceived as anti-competitive.

  13. OSM isn’t really  a credible threat to commercial cartographers, because their most profitable customers will require combination of the base map data with proprietary information that can’t be done with OSM without being forced to open up said proprietary information. The OSM license is basically too restrictive for the vast majority of the mapping marketplace.

  14. Sounds like the Parisian scribes’ guild working to ban the printing press because, y’know, it would put them out of work.

  15. Google has never made money off selling shrinkwrapped software, EVER.  They are the absolute master of the alternative revenue streams.  Funny thing about these revenue streams is that they depend on volume of use, something that would diminish. dramatically, if they started actually charging for it.

    I’ve never seen Google charge end-users for anything, ever, (and yes, I know the case isn’t about end users, but the point is still valid).  In fact, not only does Google give away services for free, their model has been called Less Then Free because they actually pay people to use their free services.  Again, this is because Google makes money off the volume of people using their services, not the services themselves.

    Simple example, when Google took over YouTube, they started giving money away to the most popular videos, giving people financial incentives to upload.  This creates more usage, i.e. more volume, which is where google makes it’s money from.

    Yes, corporations have done exactly what Google is accused of in the past, and some are doing it right now, but go and deal with Microsoft and Wal*Mart.  In the entire history of Google’s world empire, they have never done anything like this.  AND, if they promiss that to the courts, and then change their mind later on, they will have broken their promiss to the courts, and can be thoroughly wrung for the billions they owe.

  16. €500,000 to a “competitor” because Google is giving away MAPS. LOL – let me know how that works out for you, France.

    1. I do wish you people would actually read what the judgement was about instead of behaving like a bunch of nursery schoolkids.…

  17. Stop kissing Google’s ass. Murdering the competition and then start charging is exactly what Google has been doing.

    And that is exactly why they lost: because they had no other plausible reason to offer the API for free other than destroying all competition.

    Google stopped taking “do no evil” seriously a long time ago. They cannot be allowed to continue pissing all over European anti-trust and privacy laws.

    1. Yeah, I think it’s hilarious that all these folks believe this “do no evil” garbage.  Meanwhile Google has employed every tax dodging scheme it possibly can to avoid paying its share while the rest of us in the U.S. twist in the wind.  And when more and more egregious violations of your privacy occur, all these folks will be surprised.  But, but, they’ve got ping pong tables and massages in their offices!?  lol.  What is this nature of ‘capitalism’ that you speak of?

      1. Google pays 23% of their worldwide income as US tax. Over 50% of US corporations pay no tax at all.  It’s not hard to look up.  So where did you get this idea about “every tax dodging scheme it possibly can”?

    2. Can you name some examples of Google murdering the competition and then charging for a previously free service? I’m not aware of any – all my Google services are still free.

  18. Do they have frickin libraries in France? By this argument, is there any free product or service that should be legal, given that it could undermine somebody else making a buck off the same thing? Pere Noel allez a La Bastille.

  19. Also Map Quest was around even before that.

    Anyway idiot court decision in France. As someone else mentioned, they are going to have to sue Microsoft next  as well.

    Maybe they should just take all their services out of France and see how the French people like that…

  20. If you charge less than competitors, it’s predatory pricing. If you charge the same, it’s a cartel. And if you charge more, it’s gouging.
    Any way you cut it, they can get you.

Comments are closed.