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Google has been hit with a $1.7 billion fine in Europe for abusing its dominance in the search market when it comes to ad contracts with third parties.
"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," said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy. "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 EU took issue with three specific practices dating back to 2006: banning publishers from placing search ads from competitors on their search results pages; requiring publishers to put Google's ads on the most profitable parts of their websites; and demanding written approval from Google if a publisher wanted to change how a rival ad would appear on their pages.
This has led Google to dominate online search advertising; it had more than 70 percent market share from 2006 to 2016, at which point the European Commission levied antitrust charges against Google, sending the company two Statement of Objections regarding its search practices and AdWords business.
In 2017, the EU imposed a $2.7 billion fine against Google after it "illegally steered users toward its comparison shopping website." A year later, another fine of $5.1 billion was doled out because Google was found to be abusing its power in the smartphone market.
In a blog post, Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs, said Google has been making changes over the years in response to the EU's rulings. "We've always tried to give people the best and fastest answers?whether direct from Google, or from the wide range of specialist websites and app providers out there today," he wrote.