France's competition regulator will take action against Google if the firm abuses its market power in the online search market.
The Autorité de la Concurrence said it considers Google to have a dominant position in online search-based advertising, and warned that current competition law would allow it to limit Google’s business in the country.
However, the regulator stopped short of criticizing the search firm for achieving its position, which it says is based on Google’s market share, price level, margins and the nature of its customers.
“This dominant position is [itself] not reprehensible: it results from a great deal of innovation, supported by significant and continuous investments. Only the abusive exercise of such market power could be sanctioned,” the regulator stated.
In a specific example, the regulators warned that Google must ensure that newspaper publishers have the right to opt out of Google News, without the decision affecting their placement in normal search results.
The Autorité issued the statement in response to a request for its opinion on Google’s market strength by France’s Culture and Communication minister in January.
Google is already facing a European Commission anti-trust investigation into the way it prioritizes search results, following complaints from firms including Ciao, Foundem and French legal site justice.fr.
The French parliament is also debating the introduction of a 1% tax on all online advertising, which will be used to fund subsidies for newspapers and recording artists harmed by the growth of the internet.
The proposed tax has been nicknamed the “Google tax” by the press.