Alphabet Inc unit Google was fined 1.49 billion euros (USD 1.7 billion) on Wednesday, its third large European Union antitrust penalty in two years marking the companyâs decade-long regulatory battle in Europe.
The EU antitrust chief, however, gave a cautious welcome to Googleâs measures to boost competition and give Android users a choice of browsers and search apps, suggesting the companyâs regulatory woes may be coming to an end.
The European Commission, which said the fine amounted to 1.29 percent of Googleâs turnover in 2018, said that the case focused on the companyâs illegal practises in search advertising brokering from 2006 to 2016.
âTodayâs decision is about how Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform,â European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.
She said its actions meant advertisers and website owners had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would then be passed on to consumers.
The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Googleâs AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.
The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on these pages for Googleâs adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to how rival adverts were displayed.
The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft Corp in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.
Google said it was taking action to comply with EU orders in two previous cases, one of which concerned its Android mobile operating system that resulted in a record 4.34 billion euro fine last year while the shopping comparison case led to a 2.42 billion euro fine.
âWeâve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyoneâs interest. Weâve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commissionâs concerns,â Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a statement.
âOver the next few months, weâll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,â he added.
Vestager welcomed the move, saying: âWe see positive developments both in the shopping and Android case.â.
Googleâs foe, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, said regulators should stay vigilant.
âCompetitors have withered or died. Itâs time for the EU and governments around the world to step in and address the underlying wrong,â its chairman Michael Weber said in a statement.