Google appeals $1.7BN EU AdSense antitrust fine

Like clockwork, Google has filed a legal appeal against the €1.49 billion ($1.7BN) antitrust penalty the European Commission slapped on its search ad brokering business three months ago.

The Telegraph reported late yesterday that the appeal had been lodged in the General Court of the European Union in Brussels.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the appeal has been filed but declined to comment further.

Reached for comment, a Commission spokesperson told us: “The Commission will defend its decision in Court.”

The AdSense antitrust decision is the third fine for Google under the Commission’s current antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager — who also issued a $5BN penalty for anti-competitive behaviors attached to Android last summer; following a $2.7BN fine for Google Shopping antitrust violations, in mid 2017.

Google is appealing both earlier penalties but has also made changes to how it operates Google Shopping and Android in Europe in the meanwhile, to avoid the risk of further punitive penalties.

In the case of AdSense, the Commission found that between 2006 and 2016 Google included restrictive clauses in its contracts with major sites that use its ad platform which Vestager said could only be seen as intending to keep rivals out of the market.

Restrictions had included exclusivity provisions and premium ad placement requirements that gave Google’s ads priority and plumb positioning on “the most visible and most profitable parts of the page”. Another illegal clause put controls on how partner websites could display rival search ads.

The restrictions were only removed by Google when the Commission issued its formal statement of objections in 2016 — signalling the start of serious scrutiny.

As well as going on to fine Google €1.49BN for AdSense antitrust breaches, the Commission’s enforcement decision requires that Google does not include any other restriction “with an equivalent effect” in its contracts, as well as stipulating that it must not reinstate the earlier abusive clauses.