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France fines Google €1.1 million for 'misleading' consumers with its hotel rankings

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The logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the entrance hall of the company's French headquarters in Paris.
The logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the entrance hall of the company's French headquarters in Paris.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michel Euler, File
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France has fined Google €1.1 million for allegedly "misleading" consumers with their rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodations.

A 2019 investigation by the French consumer watchdog and finance ministry found the tech giant was guilty of "misleading commercial practice".

Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement, after approval from the Paris public prosecutor, the ministry said.

Both organisations have since altered their practices, it added in a statement.

France's Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had launched a probe into Google in September 2019 after complaints from hotels.

Businesses had argued that the display of around 7,500 hotels on Google's search engine was unfair, compared to the official classification issued by Atout France, the country's Tourism Development Agency.

The watchdog found that Google had replaced the Atout France ranking with their own criteria, but had used an identical system of 1 to 5 "stars", which was "highly confusing" for customers.

"This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, who were misled about the level of service they could expect when booking accommodation," the authority stated.

"It was also detrimental to hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as being lower than in the official Atout France classification."

Since September 2019, Google has "corrected their practices" and reverted to the official classification issued by Atout France.

"We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search," a company spokesperson told Euronews.

Google stated that their previous classification of hotels used a variety of sources, including Atout France, as well as feedback from hoteliers and other party sources.

The settlement with the DGCCRF does not affect users' ability to rate and review hotels on Google.

In December, Google was also fined €35 million by France's online data privacy watchdog for allegedly breaching rules on cookies.

The National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said both Google and Amazon had automatically placed advertising trackers on users' computers without asking for consent.