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Google's AdWords Settlement Will Not Have Any Impact On Policies Elsewhere

Google Settles Competition Case in France from the New York Times reports Google has settled with the French anti-trust authorities today.

There is an update to this story below.

The settlement requires Google to give three month notification to some advertisers, for some ads, prior to rejecting them from displaying on AdWords section of the Google search results. It is unclear if Google only has to give French advertisers this 3 month extension and it is unclear to which ads this does or does not apply to exactly. The NY Times does say that this law only applies in France for “tools aimed at helping drivers avoid speed traps.” However, Google promised to apply the “principle of improvements and clarifications made in implementing these [France] commitments” globally. So it may result in Google giving advertisers more notice and specifics on which ads would be rejected and why.

In June we covered this anti-trust case, where complainant Navx said Google was abusing “its dominant position in the internet advertising market when it barred a location data company from using its AdWords service.” It turns out the court ruled Google was not abusive and they had “no finding of dominance or monopoly abuse” by the company.

“This is a monumental event, because the French competition authority got Google to modify its contractual rules on a worldwide basis,” said Ron Soffer, a lawyer for NavX.

We hope to clarify what exactly will be changing worldwide with Google’s ad policies. I can see Google instituting grace periods for some ads, while explicitly detailing which ads or categories of ads do not get these grace period.

More coverage of this news can be found at Techmeme.

Postscript: I have received word from Google that they do not plan on making any changes to their AdWords policies globally, and have no plans on giving a 3 month grace period of any time. Google told me that the only thing they are changing is their rules about advertising products that have to do with software showing the location of speed cameras and radar detectors. It is legal in France and Google has updated their policies to allow for it.

Google’s statement:

The FCA has said that software showing the location of speed cameras and radar detectors is legal in France, clarifying what was previously a gray area. We have revised our ads policy for these products, which has helped resolve the NavX complaint. At the same time, the FCA has recognized Google’s right to set clear content policies that guarantee ads are appropriate. In its decision to close this case, the FCA made no finding of dominance or monopoly abuse.

Regarding this specific settlement, Google told me:

This agreement and the commitments we have made are very narrow. They deal only with ads for traffic devices in France. Nothing else. That said, we are always looking for ways to improve our AdWords services for the benefit of users and advertisers.

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