EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has slapped Google with a €1.49bn (£1.28bn) mega-fine over its “anticompetitive” AdSense service.
The EC started probing AdSense back in 2016, and it on Tuesday concluded that Google has abused its market dominance by preventing rivals from competing in the online search advertising intermediation market.
“The Commission found that Google’s conduct harmed competition and consumers, and stifled innovation,” the EC said in its decision. “Google‘s rivals were unable to grow and offer alternative online search advertising intermediation services to those of Google.
“As a result, owners of websites had limited options for monetizing space on these websites and were forced to rely almost solely on Google.”
The Commission found three types of anti-competitive behaviour in Google‘s ad brokering contracts:
- Google included exclusivity clauses in its contracts that meant that publishers were prohibited from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages.
- Google began replacing the exclusivity clauses with so-called ‘Premium Placement’ clauses that required publishers to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts.
- Google included clauses requiring publishers to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Today the Commission has fined Google €1.49bn 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.”
Google has yet to comment, but we’ll update this article as we hear more.
This is the third fine the EU has levied at Google in two years; in 2017 the search giant was hit with a €2.42bn over its anticompetitive Shopping service, and last year it was whacked with a record-breaking €4.3bn fine for Android dominance abuse