In Brief

Google lands third multibillion euro EU advertising fine in two years

European Commission accuses the search giant of blocking rival ads

Google has been fined €1.5bn (£1.29bn) by the European Union after regulators ruled that the search giant had broken antitrust advertising laws. 

The European Commission has accused the Silicon Valley giant of restricting adverts for its rivals between 2006 and 2016.

The case centres around Google’s AdSense technology, which allows the firm to advertise on third-party websites “in exchange for offering them a search box”, The Daily Telegraph reports. 

The commission found Google had included “exclusivity clauses” in some of its AdSense contracts, where publishers were prevented from placing ads from the tech company’s rivals on their search pages, the newspaper adds.  

In 2009, Google replaced its exclusivity clauses with “premium placement” conditions. These required publishers to keep their most profitable ad spaces for the tech company’s products, the BBC says. 

Publishers were also required to display a certain number of Google ads and get written permission from the firm before changing the way they displayed adverts, says the broadcaster. 

The commission said these clauses allowed Google to control “how attractive, and therefore clicked on, competing search adverts could be”.

The EC’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, says the search firm 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”, she concluded.

The news marks Google’s third anti-trust fine in just two years. 

In June 2017, the commission handed the search giant a fine of €2.4bn (£2.07bn) for “favouring its own shopping service above rivals”, the Financial Times reports. 

The company was then hit with a record €4.3bn (£3.71bn) fine a year later for forcing third-party smartphone makers using Google’s Android mobile operating system to install its Chrome web browser and search app, says the FT.

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