BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google Inc has pledged to change rules and procedures for its keyword advertising policy in France to settle an investigation by the French antitrust regulator and stave off a possible fine.
The Autorite de la Concurrence had been investigating Google since June after French GPS and smartphone data services company Navx accused the world’s No. 1 search engine company of abusing its dominant position by scrapping its AdWords contract.
The AdWords service, where Google sells keywords that trigger advertisements, is the heart of the company’s $23 billion online advertising operations and a pillar of commerce for Internet service providers.
The French watchdog said on Thursday that Google’s binding commitments, which are valid for three years, were sufficient to address its competition concerns.
“Google commits itself to make the functioning of its AdWords service concerning devices aimed at evading road traffic speed cameras in France more transparent and predictable for advertisers,” the Autorite said in a statement.
“They provide the concerned operators with guarantees which were not recognized in the latter system, while preserving Google’s freedom to define its contents policy,” it said.
Google said the watchdog had made “no finding of dominance or monopoly abuse.”
“We have revised our ads policy for these products, which has helped resolve the NavX complaint,” the company said in a statement. It also agreed to apply the same principles of clear rules and procedures worldwide.
As part of its pledge, Google will give three months notice when it changes its policy related to specific products in France.
An Autorite spokeswoman said the regulator had ended its investigation into the company. Google had restored Navx’s AdWords account in June, in response to the watchdog’s interim measure.
Google’s battle to defend its advertising model was boosted by the European Court of Justice in March, which ruled that it had not breached trademark law in a case involving Louis Vuitton and other brandname owners.
Editing by David Cowell and Michael Shields