Google has been fined by the European Union again, this time for imposing what the EU calls “unfair terms” relating to its online advertising market. This ruling has resulted in a fine of 1.5 billion euros (around $1.7 billion), the third such fine handed to Google by the EU’s European Commission.
The root of the complaint against the search engine giant involved the terms for third-party websites who wanted to use Google’s search bar in their own websites. According to the E.U.’s ruling, Google required websites to favor ads from its own advertising services above the ads of competitors. This is against the EU’s antitrust rules, as laid out in a statement by Margrethe Vestager, head of Europe’s top antitrust watchdog.
“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. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”
Google has responded to the fine by stating it ceased this practice in 2016, but it is still looking at making further changes to its services to conform better to European laws. Interesting, a Google blog post on making more updates for the European markets was posted the day before the fine was announced, publicly signaling Google’s attempts to comply with the E.U.’s demands.
It’s also interesting to note Google has not yet stated whether it is planning to appeal the fine. Google is currently appealing two earlier fines levied against it by the European Commission — one $2.73 billion fine for prioritizing its own shopping service in searches, and a record-breaking $5.1 billion fine for antitrust issues surrounding the mobile operating system Android.
This latest fine comes at a time of increasing pressure for some of the world’s largest companies. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced her intention to run for the U.S. presidency in 2020 on a campaign that includes breaking up Facebook, Amazon, and Google, reflecting a significant change in how these enormous companies are seen by the world at large.
Will this penalty have an effect on Google itself? Financially, the loss of a further $1.7 billion will certainly sting, but it’s unlikely to cause any major issues for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which reported revenue of $137 billion last year.