The European Commission has filed yet another antitrust case against Google, this time accusing the firm of hindering competition in the online advertising market with its AdSense business.
The EC's Statement of Objections claimed that AdSense stifles innovation in the market and could break European antitrust rules.
The EU watchdog believes that, for the past 10 years, Google has placed restrictions on the ability of certain third-party websites to display search advertisements from Google's competitors.
For example, the EC believes that Google's AdSense for Search platform that appears on third-party websites and gives them commission if a user clicks on a search ad, squeezes out competing services.
"Whenever a user enters a search query, in addition to the search results, search ads are also displayed. If the user clicks on the search ad, Google and the third party receive a commission," the EC explained.
The EC has also taken a dislike to Google's agreements with a limited number of large third parties, so-called Direct Partners, which make up a large proportion of its revenue from search advertising.
The watchdog believes that these deals breach EU antitrust rules on three counts:
- the exclusivity that requires third parties not to source search ads from Google’s competitors
- the requirement that companies must take a minimum number of ads from Google and give them premium placements
- the fact that third parties must obtain Google’s approval before making any changes to competing search ads.
The EC did note that Google recently changed the conditions in its AdSense contracts with Direct Partners to give them more freedom to display competing search ads, but said that it will keep a close eye on the situation.
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager 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."
Vestager added that Google, and its parent company Alphabet, have 10 weeks to respond to the Statement of Objections.
"I will consider their arguments carefully before deciding how to take both cases forward," she said.
"But if our investigations conclude that Google has broken EU antitrust rules, the Commission has a duty to act to protect European consumers and fair competition in European markets."
Google has yet to respond to our request for comment.
The latest antitrust case follows a new list of charges in the case against Google's shopping comparison service and charges over the bundling of services in the Android operating system.
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