Just when we thought that the situation between Google and the European Union settled down, another scuffle broke out and long story short Google has to pay 1.5 billion euros because they breached antitrust rules of European Union concerning AdSense.
The central point of the problem is the search engines that Google has embedded a newspaper or blog websites. With the help of those, Google analyzed search results and provided appropriate adverts. European Commission calls AdSense an “online search advertising intermediation platform” for Google Search engine. It’s worth mentioning that Google holds more than 70% of market share in the domain within the European Economic Area (EEA). Outside of it, Google has a whole 90% share, which makes it to the biggest player in Europe.
The biggest problem the European Union has with AdSense is that it prevents the competitors, like Yahoo or Microsoft, to sell advertising space on Google’s search results on their site. That would make a vital entry point for all Google competitors to make their own custom search engines on news and blog websites. Google even made their moves to prevent that, as early as 2006. That year Google prohibited any website publishers to place any adverts for another search engine on their own search results, which left only Google ads as the only viable option. Three years later, in 2009, Google made Premium Placement clause in the contract with website publishers, which further prevented competitors from placing their search adverts in the most visible parts of websites’ search results.
Google was warned once before in 2016 and they stopped with the above practices. However, the fine of €1,494,459,000 is just 1,29% of Google’s turnover in 2018. The situation is way more complicated than it seems. Indeed, Google made some steps in order to prevent website publishers from using other advertisers, but on the other hand, Google provides its custom search engines free of charge, and the advertisement is the only revenue it earns.
This is not the first time Google gets in trouble with regulatory organs in Europe. They were already fined with 2.7 billion dollars for Google Shopping, and there is another even higher fine of 5 billion dollars for Android. Despite that, Google’s Kent Walker says that Google and the European Union agreed that “healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest”. It will be interesting to see what consequences this constant punishing will have on Google in the European Union.