India’s antitrust body has ordered an investigation into Google after complaints from news editors that the search giant is “abusing” its dominance of news aggregation to impose unfair conditions on the media.
India’s Competition Commission said on Friday that Google dominates certain online services and its initial view is that Google has violated local antitrust laws and has targeted new rules in France and Australia, where the company has been asked to join in “fair/good faith”. negotiating” with news publishers for paid content licensing to resolve the “bargaining power imbalance between the two and the resulting imposition of unfair terms by Google.”
“The whistleblower claims, when viewed in this vertically integrated ecosystem operated by Google, make it appear at first glance that news publishers have no choice but to accept the terms and conditions imposed by Google. Google appears to operate as a gateway between various news editors on the one hand and news readers on the other. Another alternative for the news publisher is to forego the traffic generated by Google for them, which would be unfavorable to revenue generation,” said CCI in its 21-page application.
The investigation follows a complaint by the Digital News Publishers Association, which consists of the digital arms of some of India’s biggest media companies. The association said its members get more than half of their traffic from online search engines, a category clearly ruled by Google, and the market-leading position allowed Google to force publishers into several unfavorable terms.
In a broad complaint, the association said that Google displaying news snippets limits the number of visitors to the media and affects ad revenue “while Google continues[s] to earn ad revenue on your results page” as well as enrich “your search algorithm resulting from the volume of search queries”.
“It was also stated that the terms of the agreements signed between the members of the Informant [news publishers] and the OP [Google and its subsidiaries] advertising revenue sharing is dictated unilaterally and arbitrarily by the OPs, and Informante members have no choice but to accept the terms, as they are, without any bargaining power,” said the watchdog.
“The only alternative to the AMP system is for publishers to subscribe to Google, which benefits Google at the expense of publishers,” said the watchdog. The association accused Google of forcing them to use its AMP format, which has implications for its revenue.
A Google spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
“In a well-functioning democracy, the critical role played by the news media cannot be undermined, and it must be ensured that digital control companies do not abuse their dominant position to undermine the competitive process of determining a fair distribution of revenue among all interested parties. ”, added the watchman.
Friday’s investigation is the latest in a series of investigations India’s competition watchdog has ordered in recent weeks. Late last year, the CCI ordered an investigation into how Apple manages its App Store, making it the latest country to target the American tech giant.