Russia’s antimonopoly body fines Google over eToro ads

abdelaziz Fathi

Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS Russia) fined Google for running adverts promoting the social trading network eToro. The regulator ordered the internet giant on Wednesday to pay a fine of 200,000 rubles (roughly $2,700), a move that is part of the country’s longstanding effort to tighten its grip on online trading

etoro

The antimonopoly body has detected a violation of the investment advertising rules by Google AdWords service. Specifically, the regulator says that when typing in the Google search engine keywords relevant to trading, the service displays a promotional ad for unregulated investment products, including those offered by eToro.

“We are quite serious about complaints about advertising of organizations that operate without a license, especially when it comes to financial services and can directly affect the welfare of citizens. We always urge consumers to be as careful as possible when choosing a company to which they are going to give their money and be very careful about advertisements, including those on the Internet, that promise big and quick earnings,” said Ekaterina Solovieva, head of the Moscow OFAS Russia.

Moscow has routinely fined foreign tech giants for failing to remove banned content and is seeking to compel them to open offices in the country.  Earlier in August, it fined Google $190,000 over suspected infringements of the national Advertising Law.

The investigation followed a formal complaint by the Russian Federal Public-State Foundation for the Protection of Investors and Shareholders’ Rights, which accused Google’s internet ad services business of promoting unauthorized investment products.

The statutory inquiry probed whether Google, as the advertising distributor, violated general protection regulations and broke mandatory safeguards prescribed by the Federal Act on Investment Fund. Violation of advertising legislation is subject to a fine for legal entities in the amount from 100,000 to 500,000 rubles.

The penalties came after Russia adopted the sweeping rules to regulate the forex market, which effectively killed the local retail industry and put the business into the hands of major banks. Around this time, back in 2017, eToro has ceased offering FX trading in Russia. The decision was made in compliance with Russian legislation, which requires a forex trading license, which eToro didn’t have.

The FAS has previously launched a probe into the ads of online FX brokerage InstaForex, which was among five foreign exchange dealers operating in the country that saw their licenses revoked. The official reasons behind the move were that the Kaliningrad-based brokerage had been using aggressive advertising to lure Russian clients, while falsely advertising that its services are licensed by the Central Bank of Russia.

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