Following allegations by news publishers, India has ordered a probe into Alphabet Inc’s Google, stating its initial assessment was that the tech giant had infringed several antitrust laws.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) stated in its judgment that Google has a monopoly on certain online search services in India and may have imposed unreasonable conditions on news publishers.
The complainant, the Digital News Publishers Association, which represents the digital divisions of some of India’s largest media firms, claims that Google has failed to pay its members reasonable advertising revenue.
What the CCI is saying
The Competition Commission of India stated that Google dominates certain online services and that its initial assessment is that the company has broken local antitrust laws. The commission also cited new rules in France and Australia, where the company has been asked to enter into “fair/good faith negotiation” with news publishers for paid licensing of content to address the “bargaining power imbalance between the two and the resultant imposition of unfair conditions by Google.”
The association has alleged that Google had ‘abused’ its dominant position in news aggregation leading to advertising losses for publishers, to the extent that they receive only 51% of the advertising spend.
The CCI added that, “The allegations of the informant, when seen in this vertically integrated ecosystem operated by Google, makes it prima facie appear 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 publishers on the one hand and news readers on the other. Another alternative for the news publisher is to forgo the traffic generated by Google for them, which would be unfavourable to their revenue generation.”
For years, news organizations have complained about internet companies exploiting content in search results or other features without payment, despite the fact that they have been losing advertising revenue to online aggregators such as Google.
New restrictions in France and Australia, fueled by media lobbying and public pressure, have resulted in licensing deals worth billions of euros around the world, according to the CCI directive.
The recent investigation is said to be the latest of a series of probes Indian competition watchdog has ordered in recent weeks. The association said that Google not only has a monopolistic position in search in India, it also has a very strong position in advertising intermediation and controls/retains the major share at each level.