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Google Fined $660,000 For Making Google Maps Free

A recent ruling in a French commercial court may see Google put into much larger legal bind globally thanks to the "anti-competitive" nature of Google Maps. Why? Because Google was offering a service that one French company provided for free, thus the latter cried "anti-competitive" to the French court system.

Honestly, it's surprising Google isn't facing additional anti-competitive lawsuits both locally and abroad. Case in point: a Verizon customer who purchases an Xperia PLAY smartphone has two options: use Google Maps, which is free, or use Verizon's VZ Navigator which costs an extra $10 a month. Which service will the consumer likely use?

On Tuesday a Paris court sided with French mapping company Bottin Cartographes who filed an unfair competition complaint against Google France and parent company Google for providing free web mapping services to businesses across the country. Bottin Cartographes provides the same services but for a fee, thus complained to the court that Google's strategy was aimed at undercutting competitors by temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market.

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

Scemmama added that Bottin argued its case against Google for two years. But finally Google France was ordered to pay 500,000 euros (about $660,000) in damages and interest to the plaintiff, and an additional 15,000 euro fine for its practice. Naturally Google France plans to appeal the decision.

"We will appeal this decision," a Google spokesperson stated. "We remain convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites. There remains competition in this sector for us, both in France and internationally."

Google fought the American court system last year in a Delaware District Court after British Telecom filed a lawsuit claiming that Google Maps violates patents it holds related to navigation information. Google also faced a 100,000 Euro fine in France almost a year ago for collecting private information via Street View drive-bys.