The European Commission (EC) once again fined Google, this time €1.49 billion for forcing customers of its AdSense business to turn down advertising from rivals such as Yahoo and Microsoft.
The EU’s statement explained that since it is not possible for competitors in online search advertising to sell ad space in Google’s own search engine results pages, third-party websites are “an important entry point for these other suppliers of online search advertising intermediation services to grow their business and try to compete with Google.”
However, it found that the search giant was imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with websites, preventing rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said in a statement: “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,” she added.
Google making amends
The news comes a day after Google announced it will ask Android users in Europe which browser and search apps they prefer, as part of steps it is taking to placate the European Commission following a €4.3 billion fine for abusing the dominant position of its operating software.
The fine was issued in July 2018 after a three-year investigation into Google’s requirement for device makers to include its apps on devices, including its browser Chrome, and position them prominently.
Android users have always had the option of downloading any app they want but in a blog post Kent Walker, SVP of global affairs, explained it is taking steps “to ensure Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available.”
As first steps taken after the fine, Google laid out plans to stop bundling preinstalled apps with its Android platform and instead charge manufacturers a fee to licence its apps, as part of a bid to avoid additional fines.
The new changes will take place over the next few months and reflect “our continued commitment to operating in an open and principled way,” the company said.