Google has, true to form, refused to take its latest European Commission fine on the chin after the tech giant launched an appeal against the €1.49bn (£1.28bn) penalty levied in March for abusing its online advertising monopoly.
The company, which rejects the Commission’s charge that its AdSense product was anti-competitive, has filed the appeal in the General Court of the European Union in Brussels.
AdSense allows Google to advertise on third party websites in exchange for offering them a search box. However, between 2006 and 2016 Google included “exclusivity clauses” in some AdSense contracts which prevented publishers from placing ads from Google rivals on their search pages.
In 2009, Google replaced the strategy with “relaxed exclusivity”, which allowed rival ads to be run but Google controlled how they were placed, preventing them from being on “the most profitable space on their search results pages”.
It has removed the clause and now offers a cut of ad revenues, but was still charged for historical abuse of its position.
The fine was on top of the €4.3bn (£3.7bn) penalty issued last year relating to its Android mobile operating system and a €2.4bn (£2.1bn) fine for promoting its own shopping service over rivals.
Google is appealing all three of the European antitrust fines it has received in the past two years, though it has made changes to each of the services in question.
In the same week it was handed the AdSense fine in March, Google’s legal counsel Kent Walker wrote in a blog post: “A key characteristic of open and competitive markets and of Google’s products is constant change.
“Every year, we make thousands of changes to our products, spurred by feedback from our partners and our users. Over the last few years, we’ve also made change to Google Shopping; to our mobile apps licenses; and to AdSense for Search in direct response to formal concerns raised by the European Commission.
“Since then, we’ve been listening carefully to the feedback we’re getting, both from the European Commission, and from others. As a result, over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to our products in Europe.”
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