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Google fined €1.49B for anti-competitive practices in online ads

The European Commission has imposed a €1.49 billion fine against Google LLC for anti-competitive practices on its AdSense for Search platform.

The commission said the Alphabet Inc. unit abused its market dominance by placing restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites, which barred its rivals from placing search advertisements on them. Alphabet expects it will accrue the fine in the first quarter.

"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," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

According to the EC's findings, Google began including exclusivity clauses in its contracts in 2006, which restricted publishers from hosting adverts from competitors. These clauses were replaced in 2009 with "premium placement clauses" that required publishers to allocate the most profitable space to Google's advertisements. The company had also controlled ads on third-party websites by requiring approval from Google before publishers could make changes to them.

The commission clarified that Google had stopped these practices after the regulatory body raised concerns in July 2016.

Google had an over 70% market share in the European Economic Area between 2006 and 2016, according to the EC. The company's fine was based on Google's revenue from online search advertising intermediation in the EEA.

The recent fine follows the commission's €4.34 billion penalty against Google for antitrust violations related to the Android mobile operating system and another €2.42 billion for abusing its dominant position in the search engine market.