Google was slapped with a fine of €1.49 billion ($1.7 billion) by the European Union Wednesday (March 20), holding the internet search giant to task for limiting how some websites used display ads sold by competitors.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the fine is centered on what the European Union said was the firm's abuse of its dominant position in the search engine market and efforts by Google to block companies that sell text ads based on search results of rivals. It marks the third antitrust penalty from the European Union since 2017. It is smaller than the combined $7.67 billion the EU has fined Google in the past two instances.
According to the report, this is the last of the charges the EU has filed against Google and ends what has been a nearly 10-year investigation. The paper noted the fine doesn't come with an order for Google to overhaul its practice.
“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anticompetitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, according to the news outlet. “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” she added. The EU's antitrust chief noted that although Google stopped the practice in 2016 the decision does require Google to lift restrictions of any equivalence and not reinstate them.
“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the Commission’s concerns. Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,” Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president of global affairs, said in the report. The Journal noted that previously Google said it thinks it behaved legally but decided to end the practice to get the matter resolved quickly.
Despite the fines, not everyone in the U.K. or the U.S. think it goes far enough. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is running for president, is calling for a breakup of some of the tech giants. Vestager, however, isn't a fan of corporate splits, saying targeted fines have more impact. “We try with the casework, with cease and desist orders, with follow-up, to have a competitive marketplace,” she said during an appearance at a conference in Texas earlier this month, according to the report. “I hope we won’t have to turn to this tool of very last resort.”