The European Commission said the company had unfairly constrained the ability of its rivals in the online search advertising market to display adverts for their services alongside search results embedded on the websites of online publishers between 2006 and 2016. The Commission said Google ended the practices after it formally objected to them in 2016.
The regulator said the constraints stemmed from terms Google required publishers to agree to when signing up to its 'AdSense for Search' service. The feature enables online businesses to display adverts delivered by Google alongside search results they present to users on their websites.
The Commission said that the contracts initially prevented Google's competitors from "placing any search adverts on the commercially most significant websites", and latterly reserved "the most valuable positions" for its own search adverts. These practices breached EU competition laws, it said.
The regulator's decision is based on its view that Google was dominant in the EEA market for online search advertising intermediation between 2006 and 2016, and that it had abused this position of dominance.
Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google, set out the changes Google has already made in response to issues raised previously by the European Commission in a blog post. Walker also outlined the company's plans to make "further updates" to its products in Europe "over the next few months".
In response to the Commission's latest decision, Google said: "We’ve always agreed that healthy, thriving markets are in everyone’s interest. We’ve already made a wide range of changes to our products to address the commission’s concerns. Over the next few months, we’ll be making further updates to give more visibility to rivals in Europe."