Published: Wed, March 20, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

European Union hits Google with $1.69bn fine for abusing online ads market

European Union hits Google with $1.69bn fine for abusing online ads market

"Google was by far the strongest player in online search advertising intermediation in the European Economic Area (EEA), with a market share above 70pc from 2006 to 2016", said the Commission ruling.

In 2009, Google replaced the requirement with another strategy - "relaxed exclusivity" - which allowed rival adverts to be run, but controlled how they were placed, preventing them from being on "the most profitable space on their search results pages".

"Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive".

"Google's practices covered over half the market by turnover throughout most of the period", the competition commission said. Now, in a move that echoes that of Microsoft's Browser Choice almost a decade ago, Google is going to give Android users the option of choosing their default web browser and search engine.

Last year, it brandished the ad giant with a €4.3 fine relating to its Android mobile operating system that was used to unfairly undercut rivals in the mobile phone market and a €2.4bn fine for promoting its own shopping service over rivals.

Margrethe Vestager, Europe's competition commissioner, had initially criticised Android for being a closed platform, as Google was forcing manufacturers to adopt both Chrome and Search in order to gain access to the Play Store.

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Android users in the European Union will soon be offered a choice of browsers and alternative search engines on their devices, Google announced on Tuesday. "Advertisers and website owners, they had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers".

Freshfields partner Dr Andreas von Bonin said: "Given that this fine is significantly smaller than the previous fine handed out to Google and that the company has already factored in the impact of displaying competitor search ads, it's unlikely it will inflict any lasting damage".

"Over the next few months, we'll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe", he said.

The change, now under test, would add a tab showcasing Google's rivals high up on the web page in order to boost their traffic and avoid further scrutiny by the European Commission.

News of a browser ballot-my term, not Google's-came via an open letter from Google senior vice president Kent Walker in response to the EU's third major antitrust charge against the online giant. Walker notes. "This will involve asking users of existing and new Android devices in Europe which browser and search apps they would like to use".

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