Google being fined in France is nothing new. Just last month, it reached a €220 million ($268 million) settlement with the country's antitrust watchdog over ad practices. Now, it has been fined more than double that amount, as it has been slapped with a €500 million ($592 million) penalty for failing to comply with the orders of French regulators.
The issue relates to Google failing to reach an agreement with France's news publishers as to how much it would pay them for displaying their content in its News Showcase program. For those unaware, Google News Showcase is a licensing program which allows publishers to monetize their content through "enhanced storytelling experiences". In some cases, Google may also pay publishers to expose paywalled articles so readers can read them for free. This not only allows publishers to reach a wider audience while being financially compensated but also enables consumers to view content that may not have been accessible to them otherwise. It is available in a few countries including the UK, Argentina, Australia, and India, among others.
Basically, French authorities imposed the fine because Google did not manage to reach an agreement with the country's top news publishers like APIG, SEPM, and AFP despite orders from regulators to hold talks within three months after a publisher requests them. The news agencies say that talks from Google were not held in good faith.
Apart from paying the hefty fine, Google is also required to present proposals about compensation plans for news agencies within the next two months, or face up to €900,000 ($1.07 million) per day once this deadline expires. The company had the following to say regarding the penalty:
Our objective remains the same: we want to turn the page with a definitive agreement. We will take the French Competition Authority's feedback into consideration and adapt our offers.
[...] We have acted in good faith throughout the entire process. The fine ignores our efforts to reach an agreement, and the reality of how news works on our platforms.
Previous court documents have indicated that Google agreed to pay 121 news publishers a sum of €64 million ($76 million) over a period of three years to put an end to the case, but this offer was clearly not enough for French agencies. It remains to be seen if the tech giant will be able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with French news outlets within the next couple of months.