At the end of March, the European Commission again imposed a monster fine of no less than 1.4 billion euros on Google.
The third major fine in a row
It is not the first time that Google struggles with the EU because of problems with either privacy and consumer protection or, like this time, competition law. The European Commission already started a series of investigations in 2016 into the way Google works and the way it “injured” its competitors. The European Commission has since issued a number of fines to Google. It is the third major fine for Google in the context of this large-scale investigation. In 2017, Google already had to pay a fine of 2.4 billion euros for abuse of power around its product comparator. Last year, a fine of 4.34 billion euros was imposed for abuse of power in connection with the compulsory supply of Google apps with the Android operating system for mobile devices.
Monster fine for Google Adsense
This time the technology giant was fined for systematically penalizing competitors who wanted to use AdSense. AdSense is Google’s service for providing advertisements in its search services, but also on various websites.
The European Commission found that Google is abusing its dominant position in offering online advertisements via Adsense in its own search engine, with which Google had a market share of more than 70 percent in search advertising in the period from 2006 to 2016, which allowed it to impose disproportionate conditions on users of the service.
Since 2006, Google would prohibit companies that wanted to place a Google search bar on their websites (“Adsense for Search”) to freely choose which advertising provider the companies wanted to use. The use of AdSense was therefore mandatory for those who wanted to use the Google search bar on their website.
The abuse of a dominant position went even further. For example, Google used exclusivity clauses, so that search ads from AdSense competitors did not stand a chance. In addition, Google stipulated that direct partners had to place a minimum number of search ads from Google and that they had to be displayed in the most visible and profitable places of the websites. In addition, websites had to get written permission from Google to make changes to the display of competitors’ ads, which went so far that even color, size and font required Google’s prior approval.
According to the Commission, this led to a ‘vicious circle’ in which AdSense’s competitors could no longer compete fairly, with the result that websites had less and less choice to opt for different parties to sell their advertising space and were in fact forced to collaborate with Google.
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