EU launches new antitrust charge against Google's search ads

A Google logo on the outside of one of its offices

The European Commission (EC) has issued a new antitrust charge against Google concerning its search business, and strengthened an existing charge against its shopping comparison service.

The EC's fresh charge accuses Google of blocking rivals from placing search adverts on third-party websites, arguing the search giant has abused its dominant position in the market by preventing third-party websites from displaying search ads from competitors using the AdSense for Search platform.

The platform acts as an intermediary when large retailers seek advertisers for search boxes they include on their own sites. With an estimated 80 per cent market share of this business, Google allegedly signs contracts with such websites that restricts their ability to get search adverts from other providers.

Margrethe Vestager, European Competition Commissioner, said: "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.

"Google has hindered competition by limiting the ability of its competitors to place search adverts on third-party websites, which stifles consumer choice and innovation."

The Commission is reinforcing another charge against Google's shopping comparison business, after first raising objections last year.

The case states that Google has been favouring its own internet shopping comparison results over results from rival services in search results, which is in violation of competition policy.

Vestager said: "We now have more evidence to show how important prominent display on Google's search result pages is to a website's traffic.We believe that Google's actions have harmed consumers, who get the results that Google wants them to see, not necessarily the ones that are most relevant."

If found guilty, Google could face fines of up to 10 per cent of its global turnover for each case of breaching antitrust rules.

A spokesman for Google told IT Pro: "We believe that our innovations and product improvements have increased choice for European consumers and promote competition. We'll examine the Commission's renewed cases and provide a detailed response in the coming weeks."

Google is also facing a separate antitrust suit about its Android mobile OS.

29/06/2016:Look out Google, the EU is about to investigate your ad business

The EU is set to launch a third antitrust investigation into Google, it is claimed.

The latest complaint relates to the search giant's advertising services, according toBloomberg, citing three sources close to the matter.

Rivals of Google have submitted complaints about the services to the EU, which has asked them if it can share their complaints with Google, the publication said.

Google's advertising services are central to the company's revenue they made up $18 billion of Google's $20 billion revenue for the three months ending March 2016, according to parent company Alphabet's latest financial results.

Complaints about Google's Adwords and AdSense services date back to 2010, according to Reuters, with competitors arguing exclusivity clauses and other restrictions imposed on advertisers are unfair.

Neither the European Commission nor Google responded to requests for comment.

Google faces two other antitrust investigations being conducted by the EU one is in relation to Android and the other concerns Google's shopping search service, claiming the company promotes its own services over those of rivals.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager claimed in April that Google had "abused its dominant position" in the mobile market and reduced mobile software competition by incentivising handset manufacturers to pre-load its own Android apps onto those devices.

Google has objected to these claims, saying partner agreements are voluntary and other companies' apps are also pre-loaded on these devices.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at