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CCI orders probe against Google for allegedly abusing its dominance in news aggregation

India’s antitrust body has ordered fresh investigations against Google for allegedly exploiting its dominant position in news aggregation. This order reflects claims made against Google by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), an industry association mostly comprised of India’s biggest legacy media entities working in the digital media sector.

Google closeup logo displayed on a phone screen, smartphone on a keyboard is seen in this multiple exposure illustration, the company's symbol is globally recognized

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According to the association’s complaints, Google utilizes its dominant position as an interface between users as well as publishing houses to arbitrarily choose what percentage of ad revenues must go to news publishers. The Digital News Publishers Association stated in their petition that Google’s actions led to the denial of a fair share of digital advertising revenue to news publishers as well as the disclosure of insufficient information to meet a fair settlement.

According to the order, which was posted on the Competition Commission of India (CCI)’s website, a prima facie case against Google’s alleged conduct is made out, promoting an investigation. According to Google, it will have ample opportunity to state its case during the probe. The watchdog has requested its Director-General of Investigation to submit a report within 60 days. The regulator also stated that nothing in its order represents a definitive expression of opinion on the merits of the case.

“At this stage, the Commission is satisfied that a prima facie case is made out against the alleged conduct of Google, which merits an investigation. Google would have sufficient opportunity to present its case during an investigation,” the order stated. The association also claimed that this resulted in a substantial number of advertising revenue losses for its members, in direct violation of Section 4(2) of the Competition Act.

The petition said the Indian newspaper industry has thrived on a business model based on advertising, which represents two-thirds of overall revenue while only one-third of its total revenue from subscriptions by readers. Moreover, the digitalization of the economy has caused higher spending on digital advertising, increasing news publishers’ dependency on digital advertising, it said.

The Digital News Publishers Association wrote in their petition that its members in the news media business have worked hard to deliver reputably and fact-checked news, which is the backbone of any democracy. According to the Association, they have invested and continue to invest huge capital in training their journalists among other officials, hiring reporters, and investing in production in order to deliver credible news.

It also stated that the media industry was one of the worst-affected sectors during the pandemic. According to the report, the pandemic has pushed the transition of news consumers away from traditional print and broadcast media and toward digital sources.

Earlier this year, Australian lawmakers passed a bill mandating digital platforms such as Facebook and Google to pay local media outlets including publishers in exchange for indexing their content on news feeds as well as search results. In fact, the search engine giant began negotiating deals with Australian news publishers before the regulation went into effect.

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