Google Free Europe

February 3rd, 2012 by Search Influence Alumni

Google France


Google has landed in hot water in France after offering its Google Maps product for free in the country. America is known as the land of the free, and we all know big businesses get to do pretty much whatever they want. The idea of a government stepping in to say a business can’t give away a service for free strikes me as particularly French.

But while this move may not slow down the Google machine, it could open the door to similar lawsuits as Google sets its sights on new markets in previously un(Google)mapped countries. Could this be the beginning of a real life game of Risk that Google might not want to lose?

France Fines Google for Flying Free

French officials allege that the search engine giant is unfairly leveraging its massive size to crush smaller French competitors who offer similar services to paying customers – specifically Bottin Cartographies, who initiated the lawsuit in 2010. A 500,000 Euro fine was leveled against Google as the result of the lawsuit, coupled with an additional 15,000 Euro fine.

A smaller company — maybe Bottin Cartographies — would take this as a huge and potentially disastrous setback after they sunk an untold sum into digitally mapping a new market, but something tells me Google isn’t losing too much sleep over this. To illustrate how much money Google made in 2010, SEOMoz deconstructed what Google’s reported 2010 earnings of $29.3 billion could buy.

Let’s just say no one needs that many Justin Bieber albums. Ever.


So what’s the big fuss over the relatively small fine?

Aside from the ongoing anti-trust legislation facing the company in more than half a dozen different jurisdictions, Google has had a relatively straightforward plan of attack since its inception, and charging for services like Google Maps isn’t part of that plan. Generally speaking, Google offers a free service that few can match in quality – search, maps, email – and then sells ads connected to that free service. Advertising is what makes Google’s world turn, and it’s much more difficult to sell ads for a service people have to pay to use than one anyone can access anytime they want to.

So if this French incident is an indicator of what Google can expect to see as it expands overseas, it could find itself on the slippery slope of charging some users for a service that is free in other parts of the world.

I guess what it boils down to is this: would you pay for Google Maps? What about anything else Google offers for free?