We have become pretty used to Internet companies behaving capriciously with the livelihood of their users, usually justifying this as the cost of offering a free service or their prerogative as a private company to decide with who and how they do business.

When you reach monopoly status, such as Google has clearly achieved in numerous areas such as search traffic, browser share and online advertising, the rules change somewhat however, and Google has been particularly slow in catching up.

Hopefully, a €150 million ($167 million) fine by the French competition authorities will help Google learn their obligations faster.

The fine stems from a 4-year-old complaint by Gibmedia, a publisher of weather-forecast websites, which said that Google had unfairly blocked it from buying ads.

Google claimed that the company was “deceived people into paying for service” and were placing “exploitative and abusive ads.”

The French competition authority found Google had been acting unfairly by suspending advertisers and needed to clarify its rules with advertisers.

“Google has the power of life or death for certain companies that live by these advertisements,” said Isabelle de Silva, chairman of France’s competition authority, at a press conference to announce the decision. “We don’t contest Google’s right to impose rules. But the rules must be clear and imposed equally to all advertisers.”

The authority asked Google to stop the “brutal and unjustified” suspension of search advertisers, saying Google should have a system to alert advertisers when they risk suspension from its ads system.

Google for its part stood by its actions and said it would appeal the decision.

With many online retailers living and dying by search traffic, do our readers agree that Google needs to operate more transparently, or is it still their right as a private company to do whatever they want? Let us know below.

Via Wall Street Journal