Google has agreed to pay a €1.1 million fine levied by authorities in France over misleading star ratings for hotels.
In 2019, complaints from hoteliers prompted France’s Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) to launch an investigation into Google’s rating practices in its search engine and in Google Maps.
In a statement, the government agency says it automatically collected and analyzed the rankings of more than 7,500 hotels, comparing Google’s star rating with that of Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency and only authorized provider of star ratings.
In a news release from DGCCRF (translated from French), the agency says its investigation found Google had replaced the official Atout France classification with one based on its own criteria.
“However, this classification was greatly confused by its presentation and by the identical use of the term ‘stars’ on the same scale from 1 to 5, to classify accommodation tourism,” the statement says.
“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, misled about the level of services what they could expect when booking accommodation. It also resulted in prejudice for hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as lower ranked than in the official ranking of Atout France.”
The agency says this was a “deceptive business practice” and fined Google Ireland (the company’s European headquarters is in Dublin) and Google France €1.1 million. Google has also replaced its star ratings with those provided by Atout France.
A spokesperson for Google confirms the settlement, “We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search.”