January 31, 2019 / 10:06 AM / 23 days ago

French regulator orders Google to review ads policies

A man holds his smartphone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

PARIS/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - France’s competition regulator on Thursday ordered Alphabet Inc’s Google to review its policies and procedures for blocking certain ads, saying that its actions against French firm Amadeus may have been anti-competitive.

Google said it was reviewing the regulator’s order, made in a preliminary injunction. The dominant search engine in France and most other countries, Google has faced growing regulatory scrutiny about the content it promotes in search results and ads.

The regulator issued the order as a preliminary injunction while it reviews whether Google engaged in anticompetitive behavior.

Amadeus, which runs a directory service in France, had complained to regulators about suffering a sales decline last year after Google blocked it from running search ads.

Google said in a statement that “Amadeus is a paid phone directory service which charges consumers for services that are available elsewhere for free, or for a nominal charge.” Google’s policies prohibit ads for services that can be obtained for free or at a lower price from the government or another public source.

“Some of Amadeus’ ads violated our terms and conditions for advertisers, which are designed to protect users,” Google said.

The regulator said in a news release that Google must add clarifying details to its policies, provide more warning before blocking advertisers, review Amadeus’ specific situation and provide more training to its sales staff on the company’s ads policies.

The regulator said it “will ensure the proper implementation of these interim measures and will issue its decision on the merits of the case in the coming months.”

Its decision comes a few weeks after France’s data protection watchdog fined Google 50 million euros ($57.5 million) for breaching European Union online privacy rules, the biggest such penalty levied against a U.S. tech giant.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler

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