The European Commission has announced that it will be issuing Google with a €1.49bn fine for policies that block rival advertisers on its search engine. The firm is accused of abusing its market dominance by stopping rivals from displaying ads between 2006 and 2016.
According to EC 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.”
She added: “Google has engaged in illegal practices when it comes to their search advertising brokering in order to cement its dominant position,” which has “denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition”.
As explained by the Commission, a lot of search engines have an embedded search function, which gives both search results and search adverts to users. In Google’s version, it gives adverts to publishers, acting as “an intermediary, like an advertising broker.”
In 2006, Google started giving “exclusivity clauses” in a bid to stop rivals from advertising on its platforms. It has blocked various rivals, including Microsoft and Yahoo, which breaks EU fair competition laws.
This is Google’s third fine in two years for breaking competition rules on advertising. Last year it was given a €4.34bn fine for blocking its rivals on Android devices by pre-installing Chrome and the Google Search app on smartphones. In 2017, it received a fine of €2.42bn for blocking rivals on shopping comparison sites.
Google says it has now changed its contracts with third parties, which will allow more freedom when it comes to displaying ads. It also announced that it will be informing Android users of the alternative choices of browsers that are available to them.
“This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use,” Google said in a blog post.
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