GOOGLE HIT WITH A FINE OF €1.5 BILLION BY THE EU FOR ILLEGAL SEARCH ADVERTISING PRACTICES

Google has been hit with a third antitrust fine in the European Union, this time for €1.5 bn, for illegal practices in search advertising. It was found that Google had restrictive contracts which were forced on customers through the AdSense business. Before this, Google has had to pay a fine of €4.3 bn last year and €2.4 bn in 2017.

European Union’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that Google had misused its market-dominant position, yet again. According to Vestager, Google’s practices denied other companies the ability to compete on merit.

“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 . . . 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,” said Vestager.

With this third fine, the sum total of fines Google has paid in the EU stands at €8.2 bn.

Last year, it had to pay a fine of €4.3 bn for abusing its market dominance in mobile space and in 2017, Google had to pay a fine of €2.4 bn for manipulating shopping search results.

According to the EU officials, since 2006, Google had prevented its AdSense customers from allowing any rival search engines on their sites. While originally, AdSense did not allow placement of rival search engines, in 2009 Google allowed that as long as Google search box was visible as well. In 2016, these terms were removed.

AdSense has been losing importance over the years and accounts for less than 20 per cent of Google’s total ad revenue according to Bloomberg.

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