GOOGLE: ABUSE OF DOMINANCE IN NEWS AGGREGATION
A complaint was filed by the Digital News Publishers Association, which is an association comprising of various news online platforms including the Times Group, NDTV, India Today, etc. against Google LLC, Google Ireland Ltd., Google India Pvt. Ltd., and Alphabet Inc., under section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002, on 7 January 2022, claiming that Google had abused its dominant position.
Arguments Raised by the Claimants
The claimants claimed that section 4 of the Competition Act, which deals with an enterprise's abuse of dominance, had been violated. This is because more than half of all news websites on the internet are routed through Google, which means that Google selects which news websites are discovered by users online. The complainant further claimed that Google was a major stakeholder in the digital/online advertising industry, giving them the authority to determine the amount to be paid and how it should be paid to the publisher. Google was said to have a monopoly position in the relevant markets. The complainant furthered their arguments stating that there has been a violation of the following clauses of Section 4:
(2)(a)(i): Arbitrary conditions were imposed on the publishers, which amounted to an abuse of dominance.
(2)(b)(ii): The unfair practices that Google indulged in had an impact of deterring the technical innovation of the publisher’s services that impacted not only the whole industry of journalism but also had the potential to create a deficiency of services for the consumers.
(2)(c): Google had restricted the publishers' access to the digital space, and the unfair and unilateral practice that Google adopted led the publishers to suffer huge losses.
(2)(e): Irrespective of the presence of Google in news aggregation, it does not provide its own news, i.e., its growth is attributable merely to its dominant position because it tailors information of its customers based on their search history, thereby forcing the publishers to use Accelerated Mobile pages which works to their detriment.
Order of the Commission
After considering the said arguments and the case of Google Search Bias, wherein it was held that Google did enjoy a dominant position, ordered an investigation against Apple. Inc as well as Google, under section 26(1) of the Competition Act, stating that since Google enjoys a monopoly in the area of online search, the possibility of imposition of uncertain conditions could not be ruled out completely, as the publishes were dependent on Google and had no option apart from accepting the unfair conditions imposed. This further leads to the creation of entry barriers, thereby creating a hindrance for developing more sophisticated algorithms. Now, as per the procedure, once the investigation is complete and a report is submitted by the Director-General (within 60 days of this order), the technicalities pertaining to the said matter will be decided.