For the third time in two years, tech giant Google was hit with a hefty fine for abusing its market position, European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said as she explained that the company will be fined €1.49 billion for artificially reducing the number of choices and strangled innovation by restricting how websites display adverts from rivals.
Google has been involved in an ongoing fight with the Commission over multiple violations that the company has been tied to by Vestager, who imposed a record €4.3 billion fine on Google for using its Android mobile operating system to block rivals.
In that particular case, Google was found to have used unfair practices by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on devices using Android. That ruling came after the Commission has already imposed a €2.4 billion on Google for blocking rivals of shopping comparison websites in 2017
In the most recent case, Google violated the bloc’s competition rules when it placed advertisements that appear alongside search results on the sites of web shops, telecom companies, and news outlets – so-called third parties. For every advertisement that a user clicks on, Google and the website where the advertisement is placed receive compensation.
“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,” said Vestager.
Google’s practice prohibited third parties from displaying advertisements that were purchased through a competitor and not the company. According to what the investigation showed, companies were also required to display a minimum number of advertisements that were purchased from Google via AdSense.
In an attempt to mitigate damage, Google announced that it would let Android users know about others browsers that are available on their smartphones. “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.
Vestager acknowledged that Google is “stepping up its effort with the Android system” and that the European Commission would be following developments, welcoming the change.
In response to the Commission’s decision, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, issued a short statement in response saying”We’ve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest. We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission’s concerns. Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”