The EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has announced earlier Wednesday that the search giant would have to pay a fine of $1.7 billion for abusive practices in online advertising.
In 2006, Google started selling its AdSense for Search product to allow retailers and newspapers to place a Google search field on their website. As long as online readers used the search box, Google showed them ads and split the commission with the site's owners.
In addition to that Google made the website owners sign contracts to prevent them from including rival search engines alongside Google's. The tech giant slightly altered this policy in 2009 and allowed the inclusion of competitors' search engines as long as Google's position was more visible and prominent.
Years later, when the European Union antitrust body opened its case against Google, the firm removed all these restrictive exclusivity terms altogether.
In EU Commissioner Vestager's words, such a business practice prevented rivals from innovating and from competing in the market on their merits. She also added that there was no other reason for these exclusivity clauses by Google than to keep competitors away from the market between 2006 and 2016. In that regard, concluded Verstager, Google's behavior was illegal and incompatible with the EU antitrust regulations.
The antitrust case also revealed that from 2006 to 2016, Google was the market leader in online search advertising inter-mediation in the European Economic Area, having a market share of more than 70 percent.
Kent Walker, Google's SVP of Global Affairs, commented on the fine saying that in the next few months the company would make further updates to ensure more visibility to its competitors in Europe. Walker also highlighted that having healthy and thriving markets was in everyone's interest.
The newly-imposed fine is, in fact, the third Commission antitrust penalty for Google. The first one amounted to $5 billion, came in last summer. It was for anti-competitive behavior attached to Android. The second penalty was for $2.7 billion for Google Shopping antitrust violations in 2017. Google is now appealing to both fines.
The last penalty increased Google's EU antitrust bill to $9.3 billion.
Vestager confirmed that the Commission has been looking into numerous other areas of Google's business in Europe, including the search market for jobs and local listings.
What do you think? Do you believe that Google will be the big winner in the end?