Google has just been slapped with a hefty fine of 1.5 billion euros by the European Commission. This is the third time the search engine giant has been fined by the commission, but the amount is significantly less this time because of Google’s cooperation.
According to the press release, EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said the fine comes as the result of Google’s abuse of its popularity to force customers of AdSense to sign contracts promising not to accept advertising from rival search engines.
Vestager said that this “misconduct lasted over 10 years” and deprived other companies of their right to compete based on their own merits or to innovate. She continued:
“Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate. Today, we have further strengthened our case that Google has unduly favoured its own comparison shopping service in its general search result pages. It means consumers may not see the most relevant results to their search queries. We have also raised concerns that Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation.”
The EU commission will now give Google the opportunity to respond to the concerns presented, but Vestager also warned that if the EU’s investigations find Google guilty “the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition on European markets.”
Google used to install a search box on AdSense user’s websites which allowed for shared earnings between the AdSense owners and Google. But trouble would arise if any website with AdSense tried to feature a Google rival, such as Yahoo as well. While this changed in 2009, Google’s search box was still the most prominent one on AdSense user’s pages.
In 2016, Google discreetly removed this feature altogether when the EU’s anti-trust proceedings began.
Google was also fined 4.3 billion euros in 2018 for hindering Android users from using anything but Chrome and Google Search on their smartphones. In 2017, they were hit with a 2.4 billion euro fine for tampering with shopping-related search results. Both of these cases are currently under appeal with the commission.
While Google has been accused of crippling competition in the EU, it has now been forced to loosen its grip by allowing users in the EU to choose what search engines and web browsers they would like to use.
As Google faces its third fine in 3 years while appealing 2 others, we’re interested to see what other changes the company makes now that they know regulators are paying close attention.