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Google Fined $1.7 Billion by E.U. for Blocking Rival Online Advertisers

The European Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion ($1.7 billion) for breaching E.U. antitrust rules by preventing rivals from placing their search advertisements on third-party websites. The Alphabet unit has now been hit with nearly $9.4 billion in fines by the E.U. antitrust regulator within the past two years.

The regulator said Wednesday that Google, which is supposed to play an intermediary role for advertisers, imposed restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites.

“Today the Commission has fined Google €1.49 billion for illegal misuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy.

“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. This is illegal under E.U. antitrust rules,” said Vestager.

She added that the “misconduct lasted over 10 years and denied other companies the possibility to compete on the merits and to innovate – and consumers the benefits of competition.”

Although market dominance is not illegal under E.U. antitrust rules, the commission said that “dominant companies have a special responsibility not to abuse their powerful market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets.”

Google has been hit hard by the E.U. antitrust regulator within the last couple years. In 2018, it was fined €4.34 billion for imposing illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and operators to block rivals; and in 2017, it was fined €2.42 billion for giving illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service.

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