Google has been handed a €1.5 billion (£1.2b) fine from the EU over contracts it is claimed were forced on customers through the firm’s AdSense business.
EU antitrust commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, confirmed the fine at a press conference on Wednesday 20th of March, where she said the company had abused its dominant market position by forcing AdSense customers to reject advertising from Google competitors.
“Today the Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for illegal misuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts,” Vestager said. “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 misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate – and customers the benefits of competition,” she added.
From 2006 onward, the company blocked AdSense customers from featuring rival search engines on their respective websites. AdSense permitted retailers, online publications and a host of customers to place Google search boxes on their websites that, when used, let Google show ads and split the commission with the website owner.
Google allowed the inclusion of rival search engines following a series of policy changes in 2009. However, this was only allowed permitted that its own search box was more prominently featured – in 2016, the tech giant removed these restrictive terms.
While this fine is smaller than those previously imposed on the firm, it marks the third in as many years for Google and parent company, Alphabet.
Last year, the tech giant was fined a record €4.34 billion (£3.7b) for using its Android mobile operating system to block rival firms. In the year previous, a €2.4 billion (£2b) fine was imposed for restricting rivals of shopping comparison websites.
The total EU antitrust bill for Google now stands at a staggering €8.2 billion, although it could have been higher. In this case, the firm worked with the European Commission to change its policies following the announcement of the investigation in 2016.