EU Fines Google $1.69 Billion for Advertising Abuses

Posted on March 20, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Google with 11 Comments

Image credit: Shawn Collins

The European Commission has fined Google $1.69 billion for its illegal behavior in the online advertising market.

“Google is fined €1,49bn for illegal practices in search advertising brokering to cement its dominant market position,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced. “They shouldn’t do that – it denied consumers choice, innovative products, and fair prices.”

The fine is Google’s third in the EU, and the third straight time it has been found guilty of abusing EU antitrust laws. It was previously fined $5.1 billion, a record, for using the dominance of Android to illegally undercut rivals. And in 2017, it was fined $2.85 billion for unfairly favoring its own shopping services over those of rivals.

In this case, Google was charged with illegally “cementing its dominance in online search adverts and shielding itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites.”

Google, naturally, objects to this characterization of its monopoly on web advertising.

“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission’s concerns,” Google senior vice president Kent Walker said in response. “Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”

The fines, while massive, won’t hurt Google too much, as is the sole major contributor to the $173 billion in revenues that its parent company Alphabet posted last year. But the firm is still appealing each of the three rulings. And it is making more changes to address all of the complaints.

“We’ve started testing a new [shopping] format that gives direct links to comparison shopping sites, alongside specific product offers from merchants,” Mr. Walker explains. “We’ll do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choice of browsers and search engines available to download to their phones [and] will ask users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.

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