Margrethe Vestager

Google is becoming very good at handing over billions of dollars to regulators in Europe. The company has been fined $1.69 billion by the European Commission over allegations of market abuse. This is the third multi-billion-dollar find Google has been slapped with by European authorities.

In its latest claim, the European Commission says Google abused its dominant search position to push websites to favor its own ad network.

“Google has engaged in illegal practices when it comes to their search advertising brokering in order to cement its dominant market position,” said European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager during a press conference.

EU regulators have been investigating Google’s AdSense service, which gives websites the ability to earn money by integrating ads or the Google search box on their site. The problem is, Google is not the only ad game in town.

Ongoing since 2016, the investigation was started because regulators believed the company was limiting how websites could use other networks. EU lawmakers have previously said Google forced sites to use AdSense as an exclusive ad network otherwise no access to the search box would be granted.

It is worth noting the company removed these limitations in 2016. However, the EU started an investigation because Google’s actions over the prior decade prevented the growth of rivals. Over that time, the company grew a dominant market position in online ads.

“Google’s rivals were unable to grow,” Vestager said.

Speaking about the latest anti-trust fine, Google said it was committed to a fair market:

“We’ve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest. We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission’s concerns,” Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a statement.

“Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,” he concluded.

Previous Fines

Google has already been handed the two largest anti-trust fines in history. The company was forced to pay $2.7 billion for breaching competition laws around its shopping search results.

Last year, Google was fined $5 billion by regulators in Europe. The Commission says the fine regards three restrictions Google placed on Android device OEMs. Under European laws the restrictions break antitrust regulations.

Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, says the company is monopolizing search:

“Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to the Google search engine. In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine.”