The European Commission has officially opened its third front against Google: advertising.
European regulators issued a new charge against Google on Thursday, alleging the company blocked search advertisements from competitors on third party websites. The commission also issued a new statement of objections supplementing a previous complaint against Google’s treatment of shopping search results.
“Google has come up with many innovative products that have made a difference to our lives. But that doesn’t give Google the right to deny other companies the chance to compete and innovate,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a prepared statement.
The charges are the latest set of complaints the EU has sent to Google. In April 2015, the European Commission charged Google with abusing its Internet dominance to skew search results in favor of its Google Shopping listings. A year later, in April 2016, EU regulators took Google to task again, alleging the company’s Android practices also broke anti-trust rules by forcing vendors to preinstall certain apps and Google’s search engine.
Google responded to the April 2015 charges in September 2015, and was recently granted an extension to September of this year to respond to the Android allegations.
EU regulators said one set of charges issued Thursday constituted a supplementary Statement of Objections to its original April 2015 complaint. In investigating the claims made in Google’s response to the original charges, officials said they found a “broad range of additional evidence and data that reinforces the Commission’s preliminary conclusion.”
“The Commission is concerned that users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries – this is to the detriment of consumers, and stifles innovation,” the commission said in its statement, adding, “Google’s conduct has weakened or even marginalized competition from its closest rivals.”
Regulators have given Google and parent company Alphabet eight weeks to respond to its new findings on that charge.
Thursday’s charges add a new facet to the EU’s complaints in that they also accuse Google of artificially restricting the ability of third party websites to display search advertisements from its competitors on its AdSense platform.
Specifically, the regulators said they were concerned about three things: Google’s requirement that third parties not source search ads from its competitors; its requirement that third parties take a minimum number of search ads from Google and reserve the most prominent space on their search results pages for those Google search ads; and Google’s requirement that third parties obtain approval before making any change to the display of competing search ads.
The practices have been ongoing since 2006, the EU said.
According to the commission, these practices have “prevented existing and potential competitors, including other search providers and online advertising platforms, from entering and growing in this commercially important area.”
Regulators have given Google and Alphabet 10 weeks to respond to the allegations.
Google is facing fines of up to 10 percent of its annual revenue in each case if the EU commission finds it guilty of breaching anti-trust rules.
Filed Under: Industry regulations