In a very bizarre ruling, Google has been found guilty of unfair competition and anti-competitive behavior in France because it offers the Google Maps API for free. That’s right, free is unfair. Bottin Cartographes is a mapping solutions company, but they offer maps for a fee. So when Google came along and offered a similar service to businesses without the costs involved, you can understand why Bottin was a little upset. The company’s response was to sue Google for unfair competition in the Paris courts.Bottin argued that Google was only offering Google Maps for free so as to gain control of the market. In other words, they suggested free was only a short term policy and that Google will be switching to a paid service in the future, once companies like Bottin have disappeared.The judge agreed that Google was trying to remove the competition and found in favor of Bottin. Google France has been ordered to pay damages in the amount of $600,000 to Bottin, as well as a further fine of around $20,000.This is not the end of the matter though, as Google intends to appeal the verdict. The company believes a “free high-quality mapping tool” benefits everyone.More at AFP Matthew’s OpinionOn the face of it this looks to be a misunderstanding by the judge and Bottin that Google intends to switch Google Maps over to a paid-for service. On the consumer side that isn’t likely to ever happen. However, Google does have a Google Maps API for Business, which you pay for.The question is, has Google offered business users the paid-for version of the API for free? If so, then Bottin did have a case and it’s easy to understand why the judge ruled as he did. The business version of the API does offere enhanced features you can’t get in the free API, and that is what Bottin likely offers with its paid maps.If Google is offering Google Maps API for Business with the charges dropped, then it’s unlikely an appeal will work. That is, unless they guarantee the Business API will never be switched to a paid service in the future.