EU Commission Fines Google $1.7B For Violating Antitrust Rules

Jeannie Matthews
March 21, 2019

The latest fine against the company relates to Google's AdSense advertising service and "illegal practices in search advertising brokering to cement its dominant market position", according to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

When a Google user navigates a search function on a third-party website-such as news outlets, blogs or aggregators-it will bring up both search results and ads.

In response, Google changed the conditions in its AdSense contracts with large third parties, giving them more leeway to display competing search ads.

The European Commission has fined Google €1.5 billion for throttling competitors in the internet search advertising market. It said the firm was "listening carefully to the feedback" and will make changes to some products.

The EU found Google's anti-competitive behavior extended back at least a decade and hurt other businesses and consumers, Vestager said.

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The announcement comes after Google was slapped with an enormous $5 billion fine by the European commission for abusing the Android operating system's dominance in the smartphone market in 2018.

Walker points out that Android users have "always been able to install any search engine or browser", but there's a difference between having Google's search engine and Chrome browser pre-installed as default and just letting users find alternatives on their own, and actively providing customers with a choice. This followed a 2.42 billion euro fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

She added that in addition to the fine, the ruling means "anyone who has suffered damage because of Google's behavior can also claim compensation from Google through national courts".

On Wednesday, however, Vestager gave the company hope it could avoid fresh fines by saying she didn't see "a non-compliance issue" over how Google is obeying antitrust orders related to Android and shopping searches.

Now there is literally nothing that Microsoft has done that Google won't copy: The online giant revealed today that it will offer a browser ballot on Android in the European Union, duplicating the choice that Microsoft once offered there in Windows. This is the third fine the Commission has levelled against Google in the last couple of years, but this most recent one is less than a third of the previous record fine for other antitrust violations. Publishers also had to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way rival ads were displayed, letting the company know "how attractive, and therefore clicked on, competing search adverts could be".

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