European Commission imposes yet another fine on Google


On 20 March 2019, the European Commission announced that it had fined Google EUR 1.49 billion for illegal abuse of its dominant position in the market for the brokering of online search adverts.
By senior intern Clement Hoff Munk and assistant attorney Victoria Törner

According to the Commission, Google has restricted competition by imposing a number of restrictive clauses in contracts with third-party websites that used Google’s “Adsense for Search”. The Commission found that because of these clauses, ads by Google’s competitors (such as Microsoft and Yahoo) would not be displayed when a consumer used a website’s search function.

"Adsense for Search" is an intermediation platform that website owners can connect to, with the effect that the website's search function becomes connected to Google’s search engine. Google then supplies search adverts to those website owners thereby turning Adsense into an intermediary that connects advertisers and website owners. It is a relevant product for e.g. newspaper websites, blogs or travel sites, which often have a search function embedded. When a user makes use of that search function, the website delivers both search results and search adverts.

The Commission's decision

The Commission found that the clauses prevented Google’s competitors from selling advertising space on third-party websites that used Google’s product and search engine. Since third-party websites represent an important market entry point, and are crucial for the competitors’ ability to compete with Google, the Commission held that Google’s clauses with third-party websites severely restricted its competitors’ access to the market and consequently harmed competition. On that background, the Commission imposed a fine on Google of EUR 1.49 billion. 

In determining the size of the fine, the Commission took into account Google’s annual turnover as well as the nature, duration (more than ten years) and gravity of the infringement.

Google has not yet announced if they will appeal the decision.

Read the European Commission's press release in the matter.