France fines Google €1.1m over 'misleading' hotel ratings

Government watchdog said internet giant's practice of using its own criteria rather than official classification was ‘particularly damaging’ for both consumers and hoteliers

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France has fined internet giant Google €1.1million for "misleading" consumers with its rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodation on its search engine.

An investigation in 2019 by the Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) - launched following a series of complaints - found that Google's classification of more than 7,500 hotels in France was unfair compared to the official classification issued by the country's Tourism Development Agency Atout France.

Google "had replaced the Atout France ranking with a classification established according to its own criteria," the DGCCRF said in a press release.

The practice was "particularly damaging" for consumers, who were misled about the benefits they could enjoy when booking accommodation, as well as for hoteliers, whose hotels were presented as being lower-ranked than in Atout France's official classification, the statement said.

"Google Ireland and Google France have corrected their practices and, after agreement with the public prosecutor of Paris, agreed to pay a fine of €1.1million as part of a criminal transaction."

Google now uses Atout France's ranking.

Hoteliers have said they are 'very satisfied' with the outcome of the investigation. "It was crucial for us to protect the stars of classified accommodation," Laurent Duc, of the hotel and catering union, Umih, said. "This classification made by Atout France has value."

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