The European Commission on Wednesday ordered Google to pay $1.7 billion for suppressing competition, ruling that the Alphabet subsidiary prevented rivals from competing and innovating fairly when it comes to online advertising.
At times, the contracts Google's AdSense for Search had with online publishers breached antitrust rules by unfairly restricting how third-party websites could integrate ads sold by Google competitors into the search results on those sites and specific pages.
“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,” stated EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “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.”
The ruling explained that Google's practices amount to an abuse of its dominant position in the online search advertising. And while market dominance is not illegal under EU antitrust rules, these companies have a responsibility not to abuse their power.
The decision by the EU, made on Wednesday, is the last of three such charges for similar cases that has cost the company about $9.3 billion. The company began making changes to its practices in 2009 after in 2006 it began making exclusivity clauses in its contract, which meant online publishers were prohibited from placing any search advertisers from competitors on the same search results page.
Based on the EU ruling, Google will make other changes and add features during the next few months, explained Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google, in a blog post.
“After the Commission’s July 2018 decision, we changed the licensing model for the Google apps we build for use on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and for Google Search,” Walker wrote. “In doing so, we maintained the freedom for phone makers to install any alternative app alongside a Google app.
Google also recently began testing a new format it calls Comparison Listings. The listings provide direct links to comparison shopping sites, along with specific product offers from merchants.
These links are in addition to Shopping ads that serve up on Google general search results pages. Those searching for items can switch between the Products view, which shows Shopping ads, and the Comparison sites view, which shows Comparison Listing ads.