The European Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising and for breaching EU antitrust rules. According to the European Commission, Google has abused its market dominance by imposing a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites which prevented Google’s rivals from placing their search adverts on these websites.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said:
“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 contractional restrictions on third-party websites. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules. This 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.”
This is the third major penalty that the EU has levied against Google. Last year, Google was fined a record €4.3 billion for abusing its market dominance in mobile. The year before that, Google was fined €2.4 billion for manipulating shopping search results. Google is appealing both cases.
Google posted information about the situation on The Keyword. Google says that, over the past few years, it has made changes Google Shopping, to its mobile apps licenses, and to AdSense for Search in direct response to concerns raised by the European Commission.
Google points out that on Android phones, people have always been able to install any search engine or browser they want. Google has also changed the licensing model for Google apps they build on Android phones, creating new, separate licenses for Google Play, the Google Chrome browser, and Google Search.
Now, Google will “do more to ensure that Android phone owners know about the wide choices of browsers and search engines available to them on their phones.” This will involve asking Android users in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use.
In short, if you live in the EU, you will benefit from the changes that Google is making. If you live somewhere else – too bad. Google isn’t required to make any changes outside of the EU (in regards to the European Commission’s fines).
It seems clear to me that Google will make changes if it is fined a significant amount of money. I wonder what would happen if the United States government decided to investigate Google (and other big tech companies) to see if they were breaking our antitrust laws. Perhaps it is time for governments to regulate the big tech companies.