Google has been slapped with a €1.49bn fine by the European Commission for breaking EU antitrust rules by abusing its market dominance in online advertising.
The commission said the online giant's AdSense business had imposed a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites which prevented rival outfits from placing their search adverts on these websites.
It is not possible for The Silicon Valley firm's competitors in online search advertising such as Microsoft and Yahoo to sell advertising space in Google's own search engine results pages, making third-party websites an important entry point for these other competitors to grow their business and try to compete with Google.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who oversees competition policy, said: “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 EU antitrust rules. 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.”
A statement from the commission said that while market dominance is not illegal under EU antitrust rules, dominant companies have a “special responsibility” not to abuse their market position by restricting competition, either in the market where they are dominant or in separate markets.
Google is adjudged to have held dominance in the online search engine marketplace since 2006, with a market share exceeding 85% in the European Economic Area for the majority of the period.
Its parent company Alphabet makes vast amounts of money from advertising, scoring pre-tax profits of $30.7bn in 2018, up from $12.7bn the year before.
Google's total EU antitrust bill now stands at €8.2bn after the company was fined a record €4.3bn last year for abusing its market dominance in mobile, and €2.4bn the year before for manipulating shopping search results.
Alphabet's shares were up 1.17% at $1,202.46 at 1206 GMT.