EU Hits Google with Third Antitrust Fine for Illegal Search Ad Practices

EU Hits Google with Third Antitrust Fine for Illegal Search Ad Practices

Google was fined almost €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) by the European Commission for an antitrust violation, the legislative body announced. Labeled as “outright prohibition,” Google was fined for abusive practices regarding competition policy, the third fine it has received over a two-year span. The case was identified in 2016 and Google has since been cooperating with the EU to improve its policy.

EU regulators found the tech company had been for years abusing its leading position in online advertising by restricting rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo from posting search ads in search results through Google’s engine on partner websites such as retailers or newspapers. It used AdSense for Search, which works as an intermediary platform between advertisers and website owners, to pressure customers into denying advertising from other search engines.

The strategy goes back to 2006. Other clauses in its contracts specify that written approval was mandatory in case of changes to rival adverts to prevent them from getting more clicks.

“Today the Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for illegal misuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts,” said EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate – and consumers the benefits of competition.”

Through its practices, Google obtained a market share of over 70% between 2006 and 2016 in the European Economic Area for general search and online search advertising, the European Commission said in a press release.

The three fines received so far add up to a whopping €8.2 billion. The recently announced fine may be a simple slap on the wrist for the tech giant, as, according to CNBC, it just added almost $17 billion to its value following a 2% stock gain, or 10 times the fine received from the EU.

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