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Google fined $1.7 billion for the search ad blocks on the third EU sanction

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc unit Google received a fine of eur 1.49 billion euros ($1.7 billion) on Wednesday, the third major European Union antitrust fine in the two years marking the company’s decade-long regulatory battle in Europe.

The european antitrust chief, however, gave a cautious welcome to Google is the promotion of competition and Android users a choice of browsers and search apps, which suggests that the company’s regulatory woes may be coming to an end.

The European Commission, who said that the fines amounted to 1.29 percent of Google’s revenue in 2018, said that the case focused on the illegal activities in the search advertising brokering from 2006 to 2016.

“Today is the decision about how Google has abused its dominant position to stop websites with the help of the brokers, other than the AdSense platform,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told a news conference.

She said that her actions meant advertisers and website-owners had less choice and probably face higher prices would then be passed on to the consumer.

The case related to websites, such as the newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that returns results and search ads. Google AdSense for Search, provided that these search ads.

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The misconduct included stopping the publishers from placing a search competitor ads on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on these pages for Google ads and an obligation to seek written permission from Google to make changes to how rival ads were shown.

THRIVING MARKETS

The AdSense advertising case following a complaint from Microsoft Corp in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Google said it was taking measures to comply with EU orders in the previous two cases, of which one is of its mobile operating system Android, which resulted in a record 4.34 billion euro fine last year, while shopping comparison case led to a 2.42 billion euro fine.

“We have always agreed that a healthy, thriving markets are in the interest of everyone. We have a wide range of changes to our products to meet the objections of the Commission,” Kent Walker, senior vice-president of global affairs, said in a statement.

“In the next few months, we will have further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe,” he added.

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Vestager welcomed the move, saying: “We see positive developments both in the shop, and Android-case.”.

Google’s enemy, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, said regulators need to remain vigilant.

“Competitors have withered away or died. It is time for the EU and the governments around the world to step up and address the underlying wrong,” the president Michael Weber said in a statement.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop/Alexander Smith and Emelia Sithole-Matarise; Editing by Richard Chang

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