Google, Twitter… Why the GAFA are afraid of France

Rebel. Google’s lawyers can put their robes on. As soon as the last sanction was pronounced in France, last year, by the Competition Authority (ADLC), a new complaint was filed against the advertising practices of the Mountain View group. On September 14, the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners announced that a class action lawsuit would be launched in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the coming weeks. Based on a French antitrust ruling, European and British publishers accuse Google of abusing its market position and favoring its own ad service, Ad Manager. They ask for 25 billion dollars in compensation.

“Our claim for damages is largely based on the facts found by the French Competition Authority, namely that Google violated the rules to the detriment of French publishers,” explains Master Damien Geradin. In June 2021, the ADLC sentenced Google to a fine of 220 million euros. A transaction negotiated by the group, which promised to modify its practices and open its auction platform to publishers’ IT tools. The Authority thus created a strong incentive for the actors in the sector.

Binding decisions

As appeals against US tech giants multiply in Europe, the question is on everyone’s lips. What if the French regulators had managed to “terrorize” the Gafa? On September 14, whistleblower Peiter Zatko, a former Twitter employee, shocked US senators with this revelation: “Twitter is terrified of the Cnil, much more than the FTC.”

The sanctions imposed by the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms (Cnil) would be, he said, more restrictive than the decisions of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Surprising when we compare the imposing budget of 376 million dollars of the American agency and the limited means of the French part: 24 million euros for the Cnil and 23 million for the AD-LC. “Our country is characterized by being one where everything is allowed from the repressive point of view”, outraged Olivier Fréget, a lawyer in competition law. In one year, the total fines imposed on Google exceeded 800 million euros. They reached 60 million for Facebook, which was condemned by the Cnil for not having allowed its users to reject cookies.

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