European Union hits Google with €1.49bn fine for 'blocking rival search engines'

European Union hits Google with €1.49bn fine for 'blocking rival search engines'

The European Commission is hitting Google with a fine of 1.49 billion euros (some $1.7 billion), saying the search and advertising giant broke the EU's antitrust rules and abused its market dominance by preventing or limiting its rivals from working with companies that had deals with Google.

In a statement, the EU's top antitrust watchdog, Margrethe Vestager, said Google cemented itself as a powerhouse in the online search industry - then proceeded to shield itself from competition by imposing restrictive contracts with third-party websites that blocked other companies from placing their search adverts on those websites between 2006 and 2016.

In 2009, it is claimed the company began replacing these clauses with new requirements for publishers to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google's adverts.

Through these abusive practices, she added, Google "denied consumers choice, innovative products and fair prices".

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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The European Commission reviewed "hundreds" of Google advertising contracts and found a range of behavior from Google's Ad division that it deemed anti-competitive.

In July 2018, the USA giant was ordered to pay a record 4.34 billion euros for abusing the dominant position of Android, its smartphone operating system, to help assure the supremacy of its search engine. "This meant that Google could control how attractive, and therefore clicked on, competing search adverts could be", read an excerpt of the release.

The reason for Google's current fine was explained by the Commission in its ruling today. A year before that, Vestager punished Google for giving its shopping-comparison service a better placement in search results over rivals' offerings. "Obviously, we will keep monitoring the market", Vestager said of Google's latest changes.

This time around we're looking at a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) antitrust fine as a result of illegal practices in Google's AdSense business. It adds that the fine was calculated based on Google's search revenues in the European Union market. "In the Google Android case, it has the potential to give users a real choice about what search and browser they want on their Android device". These are the "Adsense for Search" ads, and they are different from ads. This is the third fine the Commission has levelled against Google in the last couple of years, but this most recent one is less than a third of the previous record fine for other antitrust violations.

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