European Union fines Google $1.7B for monopolizing online ads

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager talks to the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels

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Vestager and her team concluded that third-party websites that sued Google to power their search and advertising features had "restrictive clauses in contracts" which prevented them from hosting ads from rival search engines. AdSense allows web publishers such as newspapers and bloggers to place text ads on their websites, with the content of the ads based on results from search functions on their sites.

The European Commission has fined Google €1.5 billion for throttling competitors in the internet search advertising market.

In the past few weeks, USA presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren proposed that Google be classified as "platform utilities", meaning that it could not both own the platform and be a participant on it. Google's ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart, she said, and Google search would have to be spun off.

The punishment on Wednesday brought Google's total tab with the bloc$9.31bn, which amounts to far less than the maximum fine of 10 percent of the company's annual turnover.

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Google is also liable to face civil actions for damages that can be brought before the courts of European Union member states "by any person or business affected by its anti-competitive behaviour", according to the Commission.

Vestager announced a record $5 billion fine against Google previous year after investigating its Android operating system, and in 2017 she delivered a $2.7 billion fine in a case involving its online shopping search results.

The EU has been pushing Google to become less monopolistic and more friendly towards competitors for a long time.

In 2017, she slapped Google with a $2.84bn (£2.1bn / €2.42bn) fine in a case involving its online shopping search results. "Google's rivals were not able to compete on the merits, either because there was an outright prohibition for them to appear on publisher websites or because Google reserved for itself by far the most valuable commercial space on those websites, while at the same time controlling how rival search adverts could appear".

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Wednesday's fine was Google's third from the alliance in the past two years.

In a blog post published late Tuesday, pre-empting the Commission's announcement, Walker detailed the changes Google has already made in response to the EU's decisions and concerns. But Google's move certainly shows that it's willing to make concessions in the region, following the EU's increased scrutiny.

Google has been hit with a 1.49 billion euro (~$1.69 billion) fine by the European Commission for breaching EU anti-trust laws. Google disagreed with this statement, appealing the fine a few months later on the basis that Android has never locked users down and has, in fact, "created more choice for everyone, not less".

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