EU competition authorities, led by Commissioner Margarethe Vestager, are reportedly weighing out yet another fine to issue to Google, this time over its AdSense ad placement product. This information comes from an anonymous insider who spoke to Bloomberg about the situation, saying that the investigation is nearing its end. Supposedly, Vestager is set to announce the fine within the next few weeks.
Background: The investigation into AdSense is seemingly near its end, between this report and an announcement by Vestager back in November. At that time, she said that the AdSense investigation was close to being finished, but a decision on the matter wouldn't be ready until at least the end of 2018. Presumably, the commission has ironed out what offenses are and aren't taking place at this point, and are merely working toward figuring out just how big of a fine to levy.
This will be Google's third fine from the EU Competition Commission in a fairly short time. The company was hit with a record-shattering fine equating to over $5 billion USD back in July of 2018, in regards to its practices with requiring Android OEMs to bundle certain Google apps in order to get the Play Store. After that, a fine just over $2 billion was levied over how Google handled online shopping.
Vestager has been riding Silicon Valley pretty hard lately, though she refutes allegations that she's been focusing disproportionately on US tech companies. Presumably, she's not done with Google just yet, and will likely be picking apart more of the company's behaviors to be sure it's acting in a manner that fosters competition.
Impact: These rulings and the resulting fines bring up a big question; with Google being as large and far-reaching as it is, does the company have a responsibility to purposefully offset the fact that its sheer size makes life difficult for small competitors? This moral and quantifiably capitalist quandary is answered by EU authorities with a resounding "Yes".
One example of that is the fine over Play Store inclusion. Google worked tirelessly over the past decade or so to build up Android and attract tons of developers, but users and manufacturers were not previously charged for the Play Store. Instead, the only way for them to ship it on their devices was to include other Google apps, enabled by default, that would make the company money.
That's not to say that Google does not monetize the Play Store, but the EU is asking Google to provide the fruit of its labor with no strings attached to anybody who asks for it. The company was already doing that with Android as an operating system, but compelling the company to allow an otherwise Google-free device to have Play Store access severely undercuts ad revenue and brand loyalty.
The shopping fine runs along somewhat similar lines, though Google's behavior in that case was arguably a bit less competition-friendly. Essentially, Google was promoting its own shopping results at the top of search queries on its service. That may sound like it's not too big a deal, but one has to consider Google's dominance in the field of online searches.
Vestager said at the time of that ruling that it would likely set a precedent for how she approaches future complaints about Google putting its own services, and those of parties that have paid it, above those of others in its search results and other linked services. Essentially, this means that Google is being asked to make a direct effort to divert users' attention away from its own products.