At Least We Don’t Live in France

Last week, France fined Google because its Google Maps service is free. The plaintiff, Bottin Cartographes, claimed that Google’s free service undercut the market and allowed the search engine giant to gain a dominant position. The French court ordered Google to pay $660,000 in damages to Bottin Cartographes, a company that charges a fee for its maps services. 

“This is the end of a two-year battle, a decision without precedent,” said the lawyer for Bottin Cartographes, Jean-David Scemmama.”We proved the illegality of [Google’s] strategy to remove its competitors … the court recognised the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed.”

Although the fine is pocket change for Google, the decision could foreshadow troubles for the company as it draws more attention for its dominant market share. In Europe, Google commands 90% of the search traffic.

European countries quick to defend their own could take aim at Google for further infringements on competitiveness. In 2010, France found Google guilty of exploiting its dominant position in advertising because the firm blocked specific advertisers from buying sponsored links.

France courts also imposed their will upon Google when search results for the Centre National Privé de Formation a Distance (CNFDI) were linked to the word “scam.” CNFDI charged Google with defamation and France agreed, concluding that its search results were offensive.

As a result of all of these anticompetitive and overbearing regulations, it is no wonder that Europe is struggling economically. Companies in Europe face so much legal and bureaucratic red tape that focusing on competitiveness is impossible.

British Prime Minister David Cameron echoed these sentiments at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.

“In the name of social protection, the EU has promoted unnecessary measures that impose burdens on businesses and governments, and can destroy jobs. The Agency Workers Directive, the Pregnant Workers Directive, the Working Time Directive. The list goes on and on. And then there’s the proposal for a Financial Transactions Tax… Even to be considering this at a time when we are struggling to get our economies growing is quite simply madness.”

While many Republican presidential candidates have stated that regulation in the United States is too overreaching, at least America is not as cross-eyed as our allies across the pond. This distinct difference in essential economic philosophy is one reason that the economy here at home shows optimistic signs of improvement while Europe continues to drag. Americans value entrepreneurship and innovation while Europe seems to be too afraid of offending anyone.

 

–Will Duncan