India’s antitrust watchdog has ordered an investigation into Google after complaints from news publishers alleging the search giant is “abusing” its dominance in news aggregation to impose unfair terms on outlets.
The Competition Commission of India said Friday that Google dominates some online services and that its initial view is that Google has broken local antitrust laws and pointed to new rules in France and Australia, where the company has been required to engage in “good faith/good faith negotiation” with news publishers for a paid licensing of content to address the “imbalance of bargaining power between the two and the resulting unfair terms by Google”.
“The whistleblower’s claims, when seen in this vertically integrated ecosystem operated by Google, make it seem at first glance that news publishers have no choice but to accept the terms and conditions imposed by Google. It appears that Google acts as a gateway between the various news publishers on the one hand and news readers on the other. On the other hand, CCI said in its 21-page application, “Another alternative for a news publisher is to give up the traffic that Google generates for them, which would be unfavorable to their revenue generation.”
The investigation follows a complaint from the Digital News Publishers Association, which is made up of the digital arms of some of India’s largest media companies. The association said that its members get more than half of their traffic from Internet search engines, a category clearly requested by Google, and the leading position in the market has allowed Google to force publishers on many unfavorable terms.
In a widespread complaint, the association said Google’s display of news snippets limits the number of visitors to news outlets and affects ad revenue “while Google continues to[s] To earn advertising revenue on its results page” as well as to enrich “the search algorithm generated by the volume of search queries”.
It was also emphasized that the terms of the agreements concluded between members of the informant [news publishers] and OPs [Google and its subsidiaries] The oversight body said the sharing of advertising revenue was unilaterally and arbitrarily dictated by the OPs, and members of the informant had no other choice but to accept the terms, as they were, without any bargaining power whatsoever.
“The only alternative to AMP is for publishers to partner with Google, which benefits Google, at the publishers’ expense,” the watchdog said. The association has accused Google of forcing them to use its AMP format has implications for their revenue.
A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
“In a well-functioning democracy, the critical role of the news media cannot be undermined, and there is a need to ensure that digital portal companies do not abuse their dominant position to harm the competitive process to determine the equitable distribution of revenue among all stakeholders,” the IAEA added.
Friday’s investigation is the latest in a series of investigations ordered by India’s competition watchdog in recent weeks. Late last year, CCI ordered an investigation into how Apple operated the App Store, becoming the latest country to target the US tech giant.