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EU regulator fines Google another €1.5bn for illegal online advertising practices

Alanna Petroff
Senior Economics Correspondent at Yahoo Finance UK
Google has been the target of numerous competition probes and fines in Europe. Photo: Omar Marques/Getty Images

Europe is hitting back at Google … again.

The European Union’s top competition watchdog has announced a third fine worth €1.49bn (£1.28bn, $1.69bn) against Google and its parent company Alphabet (GOOGL) for illegal online advertising practices.

The European Commission has now slapped Google with €8.25bn worth of fines in three large cases since 2017.

European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the penalty on Wednesday.

Vestager said Google broke EU antitrust rules by setting requirements on external websites about the way they presented their search results, which restricted competition from the likes of Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo, which owns Yahoo Finance.

“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,” said Vestager in a written statement. “The misconduct lasted over 10 years.”

The commission said that Google stopped website publishers from putting adverts from competitors on their search pages. It also forced them to set aside the most profitable space on their search pages for Google advertisements. Google only began changing its practices in 2016 when the European Commission raised its concerns.

The new fine equates to 1.3% of Google’s sales last year, according to the Commission.

Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, responded to the penalty on Tuesday by saying his company was working “to address the Commission’s concerns.”

“We’ve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest … Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,” he said in a written statement.

Vestager said her team is also still investigating Google in two other cases related to job search and local search.

Last year, the commission fined the tech giant €4.34bn for illegal practices related to promoting Google’s dominance on Android phones.

It also fined Google €2.42bn in 2017 for abusing its dominance in online search related to comparison shopping.

Google announced on Tuesday that it was making changes to address the commission’s concerns about the Android case, in a move that could promote more competition.