European Union fines Google $1.7B for monopolizing online ads

Irving Hamilton
March 21, 2019

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 per cent of Google's turnover in 2018, said in a statement on Wednesday that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

AdSense technology allows Google to advertise on third party websites in exchange for offering them a search box.

The latest fine comes after the European Union found Google guilty of preventing third-party websites that used its AdSense for Search boxes from displaying search ads from competitors in the results page.

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. As a result, Google's competitorswere prevented from placing their search adverts in the most visible and clicked on parts of the websites' search results pages.

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.

Google and the EU's European Commission are making all sorts of announcements lately.

In June 2017, the Commission fined Google €2.42 billion for abusing its dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to Google's own comparison shopping service. Shopping search rivals are becoming more visible in Google's results, she said, and Google's plans to prompt users to pick alternative search and browser apps had "the potential to give users a real choice", she told a press conference.

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The changes to search mean that results from rival sites, such as TripAdvisor or Kelkoo, will become more prominent to avoid Google's own retail recommendations dominating.

"We've already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission's concerns". These clauses said that, while you could show custom search advertisements from a competing ad provider, Google's ads had to go in the top slots, and there were a minimum number of Google ads you needed to serve on your custom search page.

Google says that Android users have always been able to install any search engine or browser they wanted, adding that a typical Android user installs around 50 additional apps on the device.

Google is expected to appeal against the fine.

"Google's rivals, they were unable to grow, and to compete, and as a result of that, website owners had limited options for selling advertising space on those websites, and were forced exclusively to rely on Google", she said.

Last year, Vestager hit the company with a record €4.34b fine following an investigation into its Android operating system.

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