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EU slaps Google with heavy fine for search ad policies

Google has run afoul of the European Union (EU) again, this time for allegedly anti-competitive practices in online search advertising.

The European Commission, which implements decisions and manages day-to-day operations for the EU, has fined Google $1.7 billion for what it calls “abusive practices” in online advertising. In January 2019, a French regulatory body fined Google $57 million for what it says are violations of the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guarding consumer privacy. Google is currently appealing the fine.

Google’s most recent fine is for what the EU says is anticompetitive blocking of search advertisements on third-party sites between 2006 and 2016. Google is accused of forcing websites that embed its search engine from displaying ads from rival search providers, such as Microsoft, and to purchase a certain number of search ads from Google. Starting in 2009, Google allegedly forced third-party sites using its search engine functionality to reserve prime search ad space for Google’s ads.

"Today the Commission has fined Google ($1.7 billion) for illegal misuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts,” said Margrethe Vestager, commissioner with the European Commission in charge of competition policy. “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. 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.”

In an official statement, Kent Walker, Google senior VP of global affairs, said Google is already taking steps to respond to the EU’s concerns.

“We’ve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest,” said Walker. “We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission’s concerns. Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”
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