Google Ad Fine Cancelled By Italian Court

November 1, 2021
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An Italian court has cleared tech giant Google of violating Italy’s ban on gambling advertising.

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An Italian court has cleared tech giant Google of violating Italy’s ban on gambling advertising.

According to a ruling last week by the administrative court in Rome, Google and its search engine did not violate the terms of the “Dignity Decree” — legislation that bans almost all forms of gambling advertising in Italy.

The €100,000 fine, issued by media watchdog AGCOM, was accrued at €50,000 a day on November 14 and 15, 2019.

The penalty followed an investigation in to Google Ads’ services promoting gambling-related websites through its Italian search engine and display advertising network.

In particular, officials from the regulator pointed to a search-engine ad for “sublime-casino.com”. The link directed traffic to a holding page promoting unlicensed gambling operators.

In its notice, AGCOM stated that Google had been penalised for not verifying the ad content.

During its appeal, lawyers for Google argued that that the "Google Ads" service is provided in the EU by Google Ireland which, as a "hosting provider", cannot be held responsible for the content of the information "uploaded" by the advertiser.

This was established both by the "e-commerce" Directive 31/2000 EU and Law Decree 70/2003, lawyers said.

That position was ultimately backed by the court, which agreed that responsibility for breaching Italy’s marketing ban lays with the advertiser that had used Google’s service.

"The ads are created in full autonomy by the advertiser, who establishes the content through an automated process. This one starts with the user's registration, the creation of a specific 'account' and the simultaneous acceptance of the 'Advertising Rules' containing clear information on prohibited or restricted activities," said the court.

The ruling is expected to be appealed by AGCOM, which would take the case to the Italian supreme administrative court, Consiglio di Stato.

Three gambling fines — LeoVegas, NetBet and Eurobet — have also been fined by the communications regulator in the past 15 months, along with online media outlet Il Guinco.

Italy has recently appointed a new minister to oversee its gambling sector; however, despite promising broad reforms of legislation, Federico Freni has so far show no signs of altering the controversial Dignity Decree.

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