BRUSSELS — Europe’s antitrust regulators slapped Google with a big fine Wednesday for the third time in less than two years, ordering the tech giant to pay 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) for freezing out rivals in the online advertising business.
The ruling brings to nearly $10 billion the fines imposed against Google by the European Union. And it comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.
Still, the latest penalty isn’t likely to have much effect on Google’s business. It involves practices the company says it already ended, and the sum is just a fraction of the $31 billion in profit that its parent, Alphabet, made last year.
Alphabet stock rose 2 percent on Wall Street on Wednesday.
The EU ruling applies to a narrow portion of Google’s ad business: when Google sells ads next to Google search results on third-party websites.
Investigators found that Google inserted exclusivity clauses in its contracts that barred these websites from running similarly placed ads sold by Google’s rivals.
As a result, advertisers and website owners “had less choice and likely faced higher prices that would be passed on to consumers,” said the EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager.
Anyone who suffered from Google’s behavior can seek compensation through national courts, she said.
EU regulators opened their investigation in 2016 — seven years after Microsoft filed a complaint — though by that time, Google had already made some changes to give customers more freedom to show competing ads. For that reason, regulators did not require a specific remedy to restore competition.
But Vestager said it appeared rivals haven’t been able to catch up, and some are “quite small.” By contrast, the EU said, Google has more than 70 percent of the …read more
Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News