Google faces its third significant antitrust fine in the EU. This time the company was fined $1.7 billion for “abusive practices in online advertising” involving publisher contracts surrounding AdSense for search.
The fine “takes account of the duration and gravity of the infringement. . . . [and] has been calculated on the basis of the value of Google’s revenue from online search advertising intermediation in the EEA,” according to the European Commission (EC) statement.
Last year Google was fined a record roughly $5 billion antitrust fine resulting from Google Play app pre-install contracts with phone makers. And in 2017, Google was fined 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for favouring its own content in shopping search results.
All three formal antitrust complaints have resulted in heavy fines, a total of 8.2 billion euros ($9.3 billion). Google has appealed both the previous fines and will likely appeal this one. The EC said that exclusivity provisions in Google AdWords agreements (“AdSense for Search“) with third-party publishers prohibited them from using competing services and restricted the way publishers were able to display ads from Google’s rivals.
Antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager issued the following statement in conjunction with the decision:
“Today the Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for illegal misuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts. 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.”
The EC said that Google’s agreements made it difficult for Microsoft or Yahoo to compete for publishers’ business.