Google is facing a €1.5 billion antitrust fine imposed by the EU, according to The Verge, for its alleged abuse of power in which they forced AdSense customers to sign contracts stating that they would not accept advertising from opposing search engines. This is the third antitrust fine that the EU has ordered them to pay following a record €4.3 billion for exploiting its dominance in the Android market and €2.4 billion the year before for manipulating shopping search results to favor its own comparison service.
“The misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate,” said EU antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
Google now owes the EU a total of €8.2 billion ($9.3 billion), though they’re now appealing the first two fines. The most recent penalty is significantly lower because Google collaborated with the European Commission to alter its AdSense policy after the EU announced the case in 2016.
Since 2006, AdSense has given companies the ability to place a search engine box on their website. In its early days, they didn’t allow companies to feature competing search engines on the website if they were using Google’s. In 2009, they relaxed the policy a little bit and said that Google’s search bar just had to be more prominent. In 2016, they removed these terms from the policy completely.
“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,” said Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs, in a press statement. “Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”
After Google made the EU’s required adjustments, rival visibility increased from 6 percent of search results to 40 percent.
“We keep getting complaints from people who are concerned about how these markets work, so we will keep doing our job,” said Vestager. “For me, the most important thing here is to enable user choice.”