Google Fined Another $1.7 Billion By EU For ‘Abusive’ AdSense Publisher Contracts

Google is now facing their third significant antitrust fine in the EU.  This fine is penalizing Google for 1.49 billion euros ($1.69 billion) for “abusive practices in online advertising” involving publisher contracts surrounding AdSense for search.

The fine “takes account of the duration and gravity of the infringement. . . . [and] has been calculated on the basis of the value of Google’s revenue from online search advertising intermediation in the EEA,” according to the European Commission (EC) statement.

Google was previously fined record 4.3 billion euros (roughly $5 billion) antitrust fine in 2018, which was a result from Google Play app pre-install contracts with phone makers.  Google was fined 2.4 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for favoring its own content in shopping search results back in 2017.

All three of these antitrust complaints have resulted in heavy fines, totaling 8.2 billion euros ($9.3 billion).  Because Google appealed the previous fines, the company will likely do the same with this third one.

According to the EC, exclusivity provisions in Google AdWords agreements (“AdSense for Search“) with third-party publishers prohibited them from using competing services and restricted the way publishers were able to display ads from Google’s rivals.

Margrethe Vestager, EC’s Antitrust commissioner, issued the following statement in conjunction with the decision:

“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. 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.”

To the EC, Google’s agreements have made it difficult for Microsoft or Yahoo to compete for publishers’ business.

In 2016, Google changed the agreements when the formal antitrust complaint was first issued.  The EC says that Google may now face civil actions for damages “by any person or business affected by its anti-competitive behaviour.”

Google is also facing a potential fourth antitrust case over local search that has yet to be formally declared.

These fines and outcomes end up putting an increased pressure on U.S. officials to take some new action against Google despite the closure of the 2013 FTC antitrust case without significant penalties.

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