The EU is hitting Google with a new antitrust charge over search ads

EU Commissoner Margrethe VestagerVimeo/Markus BöhnischEuropean Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.

The EU Commission has announced it issuing a new charge against Google over the way it displays a certain kind of ad, and has accused the search giant of stifling choice and innovation.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager held a press conference on Thursday in which she announced the new charge. It’s all down to the way Google displays its ads on third-party sites that have their own, internal search engines.

Vestager says that Google has limited the ability of competitors to place ads on third party websites, and that may break EU competition law. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google is dominant in these kind of ads, Vestager claimed, and she said it has achieved an 80% dominance over the last 10 years.

There were five specific issues that the commissioner had with how Google runs the ads in question:

  1. Some contracts included exclusivity clauses that stop third party websites from running ads from other providers.
  2. Recent versions of the contract require third party sites to take a minimum number of ads.
  3. The minimum number of ads served were the most prominent and most profitable ads on the sites.
  4. Google stopped sites from putting rivals’ ads next to or above Google’s ads.
  5. The contracts required third party sites to get Google’s agreement on how to display ads from competitors, and that left limited places for competitors’ ads.

The EU is also issuing a supplementary statement of objection over Google Shopping, Google’s product search engine. That’s already under investigation, but Vestager said the EU now has “new evidence” on Google Shopping that “reinforces our initial view” and “strengthens our case.”

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