On 22 February 2011, the French website publisher 1plusV filed a complementary complaint before the European Commission, alleging abuse by Google of a dominant position. This follows an initial complaint lodged on February 2010, which led the European Commission to open in-depth investigations into Google's behaviour in November 2010. In addition to this, Google may now face a further action from 1plusV before the French courts.
The French Commercial Code allows undertakings claiming to have suffered harm from anticompetitive practices to file antitrust damages actions before French Commercial courts. Whilst few of these French antitrust damages actions have been launched to date, as they require a significant amount of time and adequate funding in order to be implemented, several of them are currently pending against Google.
The most well-known action is the one launched by the mapping content provider Navx. Navx first launched an antitrust action before the French Competition Authority, which declared that Google had implemented its online advertising service, AdWords, with a lack of objectivity and transparency which resulted in discriminatory treatment (see Community Week Issues 478, 481 and 495).
While the French Competition Authority accepted Google's commitments on 28 October 2010 and closed the procedure, Google still faces a €7 million antitrust private damages claim launched by Navx on 11 October 2010, this time before the Paris Commercial court. Another mapping company, Bottin Carto, also has a case pending against Google before the Paris Commercial court claiming €500,000 damages.
Generally speaking, and even if 1plusV was to succeed in claiming a greater level of damages than that sought by Navx, the sums Google may have to pay in damages in respect of these French proceedings remains low compared to Google's turnover and ability to pay. Nevertheless, small but numerous victories against Google may still be seen as significant by stakeholders and indeed by Google itself.