Google has been ordered to pay a fine and damages to a French mapping company of almost £450,000 after a court ruled that the search giant was guilty of unfair competition and "undercutting competitors" by making its Google Maps service free.
According to Agence France Presse (AFP), Bottin Cartographes, a French mapping company that provides essentially the same service as Google Maps for a fee - brought a suit claiming that Google was "abusing" its dominant position by making its service free.
Google's strategy is, apparently, to undercut competitors by "temporarily swallowing the full cost until it gains control of the market," AFP reported.
A Paris-based commercial court agreed with Bottin Cartographes and ordered Google to pay 500,000 euro (£415,000) damages to Bottin Cartographes, as well as a fine of 15,000 euro (£12,500).
"We proved the illegality of Google's strategy to remove its competitors," said Jean-David Scemmama, Bottin Cartographes' lawyer. "The court recognised the unfair and abusive character of the methods used and allocated Bottin Cartographes all it claimed."
Google plans to appeal the court's decision.
"We remain convinced that a free high-quality mapping tool is beneficial for both Internet users and websites," a Google France spokesman said. "There remains competition in this sector for us, both in France and internationally."
This isn't the first time Google has gotten in trouble for its Maps tool - last year the search company got into some scuffles with a handful of European courts regarding the privacy, or lack thereof, of its Street View feature. Also, Lauren Rosenberg attempted to sue Google in 2010 because its Google Maps walking directions led her onto a highway where she was struck by a car. But this may just be the first time someone has sued Google for being free.