Google promises French watchdog advert transparency

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Google has promised to clarify its online advertising policy in order to end an investigation against the Internet search engine giant in France, the French Competition Authority said Thursday.

The authority said in a statement it would also continue to monitor Google to see that it delivers on its pledge to be more transparent about the way its AdWords service functions.

The anti-trust watchdog began looking into Google's practices after it received a complaint in February from the French start-up Navx, which sells software showing the locations of speed cameras and radar detectors.

Even though French law only prohibits software that interferes with radar functioning, Google had questioned the legality of Navx products and suspended its AdWords account in November 2009.

On Thursday the authority ruled that Google had to accept ads from Navx and said it "accepts Google's commitments" to re-establish the Navx account.

The regulator considered Google's Adwords as operating "in conditions that lack objectivity and transparency and which lead to the discriminatory treatment of providers of databases on (roadside) speed cameras," it said in a statement on the case back in June.

The two parties still have an ongoing dispute in the Paris commercial court.

Google has also agreed to give three months notice to companies using Adwords if any new restrictions have been put in place and not to suspend a contract before sending two warning emails.

These commitments, taken for three years, will apply "to all advertisers using the Adwords service and in all countries concerned," said the authority, which noted Google's dominance in France, handling 90 percent of Web searches.

Google's Adwords service allows advertisers to bid for priority in having their products flagged up next to users' Internet searches.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report. ---

© 2010 AFP

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