Looks like all is not well between Google and the EU, as the Union hit the tech giant with another fine exceeding $1 billion last week for what regulators deemed anti-competitive business tactics in relation to Google’s dominant search advertising business.
The European Union’s regulatory body, the European Commission, accused Google of stifling competition by contractually restricting publishers using its AdSense service from hosting its competitors’ ads.
AdSense is a targeted advertising service offered by Google. The platform is accused of giving priority to Google on results pages, and requires publishers to seek Google’s approval when posting ads of rival businesses, the EC said.
“Google has abused its market dominance by imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites,” the European Commission said in a post on Twitter. “It prevented rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites. We find Google €1.49 billion for breaching #EUantitrust rules.”
That practice, illegal under EU antitrust rules, lasted more than a decade. But Google eliminated the contested clauses in AdSense contracts in July of 2016 after the Commission formally objected.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the fine in a news conference. She said AdSense contracts prevented Google’s competitors any chance “to compete on the merits and to innovate”. She signaled that Google could face more investigations because “complaints keep coming.” Other Google divisions under the microscope are the search market for jobs and local search.
“We’ve been listening carefully to the feedback we’re getting, both from the European Commission and from others. As a result, over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to our products in Europe,” Google Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker wrote in a blog.
This is the third time Google has been fined for non-compliance by the EU. In June of 2017, the regulatory body fined Google a whopping $2.7 Billion for giving its own comparison-shopping service an “illegal” advantage. Google practices amounted to an “abuse of Google’s dominant position in general internet search,” the EC said.
A year later, the European Commission blew past that record penalty when it fined Google $5.05 billion for search engine practices related to its Android mobile operating system.
That record fine was in response to Google “breaching EU antitrust rules” by imposing “illegal restrictions” on Android device makers and mobile network operators, allegedly aimed at bolstering Google’s search engine.