European regulators on Wednesday ordered Google to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.69 billion) for stifling competition in the online advertisement sector.
According to the EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, Google's business strategy had prevented its rivals from being able to “compete and innovate fairly” in the online ad market. She further added that with Google reinforcing its dominance in the online search advertising segment, the company shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites – which is illegal under EU antitrust rules.
This fine marks the third antitrust fine from Brussels to hit Google in recent times. Last July, EU regulators slapped Alphabet with a $5 billion fine for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating system, and did so again in 2017 ($2.7 billion) for favoring its shopping service over competitors.
According to the European Commission, between 2006 to 2016 Google emerged as the strongest player in online search advertising in the European Economic Area with a market share above 70%. The commission accused Google of letting its phone maker’s use the open-source Android software for free but ultimately it is in the benefit of the company. The reason being it forces the phone makers to bundle Google products like search, maps and chrome with its app in the Play store.
The company’s Q4 filings revealed that it registered a 20% growth in revenue in its core advertising business from the previous quarter to stand at $32.6 billion, with a similar growth rate achieved in the previous quarter.