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Google Walloped By EU For ‘Abusive’ Practises, $2B Fine

Google has been hit with a $2.1 Billion dollar fine by the European Union for what has been labelled ‘abusive practises’.

This is the third billion dollar fine by the EU, A$12 Billion in all, for the big online search engine who is currently under investigation in Australia.

The EU alleged that Google “shielded itself from competitive pressure” by placing restrictions on other websites that wanted to offer a search function and display ads alongside the results.

The commission claims that Google’s AdSense for Search service either prohibited publishers from placing search ads from other online ad brokers like Microsoft and Yahoo or prevented competitors from placing ads in the “most visible and clicked on” parts of the results page. Google began the practice in 2006 and stopped in July 2016, a few months after the commission stated its objections. During most of that time, Google’s share of the market for online search advertising in the EU exceeded 85 percent, the commission says.

Critics claim that the record fines don’t seem to have eroded Google’s dominance and that massive fines provide an insufficient check on dominant tech giants.

As part of Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s first enforcement action against Google in 2017, the agency ordered the company to change the way it handles shopping-search results to give better display to other merchants.

At the time, experts worried such restrictions might hamper innovation or create a false impression of more competition, Maurice Stucke, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and cofounder of the Konkurrenz Group told Wired.

The recent change in AdSense for Search is one of several that Google has made in response to investigations or complaints by European regulators.

Just before the latest decision, Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, published a post on the company’s blog noting the changes, including changes to Google Shopping and changes to Google’s mobile app licenses. Walker also promised further updates to Google’s products in Europe. The company did not respond to questions about whether similar changes will be made to products in Australia.

In response to Wednesday’s fine, Google referred to part of Walker’s post: “For nearly a decade, we’ve been in discussions with the European Commission about the way some of our products work. Throughout this process, we’ve always agreed on one thing一that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest.”

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