Google Fined $1.7 Billion for Third EU Antitrust Breach in Three Years

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The latest fine against the company relates to Google's AdSense advertising service and "illegal practices in search advertising brokering to cement its dominant market position", according to European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Google allegedly abused its market dominance in the advertising sector by imposing a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites, prohibiting publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages.

To summarize the European Commission's findings, using contract clauses introduced in publisher contracts over time, Google removed rivals' search ads from search results pages, reserved the best ad spots for its own search adverts, and controlled how their rivals' search ads looked when they were eventually displayed.

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The Commission said, "Google reserved for itself by far the most valuable commercial space on those websites, while at the same time controlling how rival search adverts could appear".

The punishment on Wednesday brought Google's total tab with the bloc$9.31bn, which amounts to far less than the maximum fine of 10 percent of the company's annual turnover.

Based on a broad range of evidence, the Commission found that Google's conduct harmed competition and consumers, and stifled innovation.

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Google acknowledged in the brief blog post that it changed the licensing model for Google apps for Android phones after the July 2018 ruling against Android, "creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search".

Google responded to the fine Wednesday by saying it supports competition online.

In 2016, she fined the company €2.4 billion for prioritising its own services in internet search rankings to the detriment of rivals.

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Google "prevented its rivals from having a chance to innovate and to compete in the market on their merits", Vestager said.

Following the EU's announcement, Google released a press statement in which Google's SVP of global affairs, Kent Walker, said, "We've always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone's interest". In 2009, Microsoft filed an antitrust complaint with the European Union commission, and the commission initiated an investigation in 2016. It will also start asking European users of new and existing Android phones if they want to use another search service or mobile browser.

Essentially, for years Google didn't allow its AdSense customers to feature rival search engines on their sites. This is the third fine the Commission has levelled against Google in the last couple of years, but this most recent one is less than a third of the previous record fine for other antitrust violations.

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