Google has been fined $500m by the US Department of Justice after allowing Canadian pharmaceutical companies to place online advertisements targeting US consumers.

The Department of Justice cited the act as an unlawful importation of drugs and claimed that the forfeiture represents the gross revenue received by the company through the advertisements.

The claim arose as Canadian pharmacies advertised products through Google’s AdWords programme, targeting US consumers through the company’s search engine.

It is illegal for Canadian pharmacies to ship controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the US, a law the Department of Justice claims Google knew of as early as 2003.

Google attempted to block pharmacies in countries other than Canada from advertising, but only acted in 2009 after the company became aware of an investigation led by US Government officials.

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