Google has been fined €1.5bn ($1.7m/£1.3m) by European authorities for violating antitrust laws in the online advertising market.
The fine, which marks the third against Google by the EU since 2017, is in relation to the technology giant selling advertising space related to searches carried out on third party websites.
EU regulators said Google has been imposing unfair terms on companies that used its search bar on their websites in Europe.
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said at a press conference, according to Tech Crunch, that the search giant is “by far the biggest” search ad broker in the region, with its platform AdSense taking a share in Europe “well above 70 per cent, since 2006” and had engaged in illegal practices in order to “cement its dominant market position”.
“Today’s decision is about how Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform,” she said, noting that the Commission looked at more than 200 tailored agreements with major sites which use AdSense (aka “Google direct partners”) – finding at least one clause that harmed competition.
She added: “There was no reason for Google to include these restrictive clauses in its contracts except to keep rivals out of the market. This is why we concluded that between 2006 and 2016 Google’s behaviour was illegal under EU antitrust rules. It prevented its rivals from having a chance to innovate and to compete in the market on their merits.”
Vestager said the Commission found three types of anti-competitive restriction in Google’s contracts, including exclusivity provisions, which were included in contracts from 2006 and prevented “the most important partners from sourcing search ads from Google’s rivals on any of their websites.”
The second was premium ad placement provisions and the third was controls on how partner websites could display rival search ads.
Earlier this week in the UK, MPs criticised Google for continuing to accept its paid-for ads from sites such as Viagogo, which they claimed went against its own guidelines and breached UK law.
Image: Kristina Alexanderson