Nepal | July 10, 2020

Europe fines Google $1.7 billion in antitrust case

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Share Now:
Margrethe Vestager

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Photo: AP

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 per cent 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 behaviour 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 per cent of the European market for selling ads that run alongside search results on third-party websites.

Google did not say whether it would appeal.

“We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission’s concerns,” Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said in a statement. “Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe.”

E-marketing analyst Bill Fisher noted a “growing wave of sentiment” toward curbing the influence of Big Tech and said that even if the EU’s rulings apply only to Google’s European operations, Google should “begin to open up, become more transparent and possibly look to alter some of its business practices” worldwide.

Earlier this month, a British expert panel recommended the government curb the dominance of giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google. In the US, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed breaking up the biggest American tech companies, accusing them of wielding too much power.

This week, as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union and other activists, Facebook agreed to overhaul its ad-targeting systems to prevent discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads.

The EU has led the way in promoting tougher regulation of big tech companies. Besides cracking down on antitrust breaches by Microsoft and Intel, it has enforced stricter data privacy rules that affect Facebook and other social media companies.

The US regulators haven’t been as tough, though the Federal Trade Commission recently created a task force focused on anti-competitive behaviour in the industry.

Last year, Vestager fined Google a record 4.34 billion euros ($5 billion at the time) for forcing cellphone makers using the company’s Android operating system to install Google search and browser apps.

In 2017, she penalised Google 2.42 billion euros ($2.7 billion) for manipulating online shopping search results and directing visitors to its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping, at the expense of its rivals.

Google, which is appealing those two earlier fines, has said it has since made adjustments to its shopping results and will start asking European users of Android phones if they want to use other search or browser apps.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Silva shines as Man City thrash Newcastle 5-0

MANCHESTER: David Silva scored one goal and made two more as Manchester City put on a passing masterclass to overwhelm Newcastle United with a 5-0 Premier League victory on Wednesday. Having announced that he will leave the club at the end of this season after a 10-year spell, the 34- Read More...

Salah double keeps Liverpool on track for points record

BRIGHTON: Mohamed Salah scored twice as champions Liverpool moved on to 92 points with a 3-1 win at Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League on Wednesday. The victory kept Liverpool on target to secure a record Premier League points tally, with Juergen Klopp's side needing nine from Read More...

Adequate social security key to minimise impact of COVID-19, says PM Oli

KATHMANDU, JULY 8 Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said protection of the most vulnerable, including migrant workers and those in informal sectors, and provision of adequate social security and health care was the key to minimise the impact of COVID-19. Addressing virtual ‘Global Summit on COVID Read More...

Suarez scores as Barca condemn Espanyol to relegation

Barca beat Espanyol 1-0 in city derby Suarez won the match with his 195th goal for the club Espanyol were relegated after 26 years in La Liga  BARCELONA: Barcelona kept up their pursuit of leaders Real Madrid in the La Liga title race by beating city rivals Espanyol 1-0 at home Read More...

Coronavirus pandemic affects Nepal’s sovereign credit rating process

KATHMANDU, JULY 8 The country’s sovereign rating assessment is likely to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though the government had awarded Fitch Ratings, a United States-based international credit rating agency, to study and confirm Nepal’s sovereign credit rating in December l Read More...

Human rights awareness, Human rights education

‘Respect rights of vulnerable people’

KATHMANDU, JULY 8 International partners, civil society and humanitarian organisations have been working together to support the Government of Nepal’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, read a joint press statement issued by United Nations, various embassies and international agencies in Nepal to Read More...

SP-N notifies EC of Giri’s expulsion

KATHMANDU, JULY 8 Samajwadi Party-Nepal today wrote a letter to the Parliament Secretariat stating that it had expelled lawmaker Sarita Giri from the House of Representatives. Assistant Spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat Dasharath Dahamala said his office would inform Speaker Agni Pra Read More...

Man held for swindling job aspirants of hefty amount

Swindler allegedly offered ‘fake offer letters’ to victims  KATHMANDU, JULY 8 Police have arrested Bijay Pandey, 34, on charge of swindling lakhs of rupees from at least seven persons on the pretext of securing them employment at World Health Organisation’s Nepal office. Pandey, who ha Read More...