Google Maps is the best at what it does. Navigation is usually spot-on, maps tend to be so accurate it can be creepy (especially when they include pictures of your house) and best of all, it’s free to use. Sure, you could nitpick the minor details, but who can really complain about a free-to-use service of such a high caliber? One competing company who charges for mapping services did, and took those complaints to a French court where Google may be facing some serious problems.
A French court has ruled that by giving away Google Maps, Google is stifling competition and creating an unfair advantage in the topographical market. The plaintiff’s (Bottin Cartographes) legal counsel touted their victory over Google, saying the ruling finally “proved the illegality of Google’s strategy.” For giving away Google Maps for free, Google must now pay a fine of 500,000 euros. This is the first time Google has ever been prosecuted for Google Maps, and they plan on appealing the decision as soon as possible.
It’s understandable that companies with a similar service to Google Maps would be infuriated when faced with a massive loss of profits because they can’t sell their product. It’s understandable that they would take Google to court over it. It’s not understandable that Google would actually be charged with doing something wrong by giving away a great service for free.
If Google’s appeal falls through, this may be just the beginning. Could you imagine a world where Google Maps requires a subscription fee? We’ll be keeping a close eye on this as the situation continues to play out.