Google and its parent company Alphabet could be facing an antitrust fine from the European Union in the coming weeks over its AdSense advertising product.
Reuters, citing a person familiar with the matter, reported the fine could come in the next few weeks, and that it will be smaller than the two previous fines Google has been dealt by the EU.
In 2016, the European Commission started a third antitrust case against Google, saying the search engine was stopping third parties who were using AdSense from displaying ads from competitors of Google.
At the time, Google had 80 percent of the Euro market for search ads, and had apparently kept its anti-competition ad practice up for 10 years.
Google responded by changing the Adsense conditions in its contracts with third parties and giving them more ability to display ads that were competing.
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said she was putting the final touches on the case.
Google was hit with a 4.34 billion euro ($4.91 billion) fine last year for using its Android operating system to block competitors. Previously, it saw a 2.4 billion euro fine in 2017 for the blocking of competition on shopping comparison sites.
The commission might not be done with Google, as it asked Google if it demotes local competitors in its search engine. The results of that inquiry could lead to an additional case.
Vestager, whose term ends in October, has also gone head-to-head with Apple, when she ordered the company to pay 13 billion euros ($15 billion) in back taxes from Ireland. Apple CEO Tim Cook called the fine “total political crap.”
She’s also investigated the rampant use of data by large companies to evaluate users’ habits and histories. Last year, she launched an informal probe into whether Amazon is gaming the system by using data as an advantage on its own third-party merchants. She’ll know within six months, she said, whether she’s going to open an investigation formally. She also said she hopes the private sector will help with products that protect users’ data.
“I think you need products that will help you exercise your rights. Independent digital assistants that will make sure that your privacy settings are maintained no matter where you go. That kind of stuff,” she said.