CCI Orders Probe Against Google for Alleged Abuse of Position

Competition Commission of India (CCI), India’s anti-trust agency, ordered an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google following allegations from Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA). DNPA is a private company that promotes and secures interest of digital news publishers. DNPA complained that Google abuses its dominant position with reference to some online search services.

CCI’s order mentioned that the Commission is of prima facie view that Google has violated provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 pertaining to abuse of dominant position. In its order, the CCI said “In a well-functioning democracy, the critical role played by news media cannot be undermined, and it needs to be ensured that digital gatekeeper firms do not abuse their dominant position to harm the competitive process of determining a fair distribution of revenue amongst all stakeholders”.

DNPA claims that more than 50 per cent of the total traffic on the news websites is routed through Google and being the dominant player, Google, by way of its algorithms, determines which news website gets discovered via search. Besides, Google unilaterally decides the amount to be paid to the publishers for the content created by them, as well as the terms of payment. It further said that the members of the association suffer a loss of advertising revenues and the inability to bargain a fair share in the value chain of news dissemination, despite working and generating credible news.

Responding to these allegations, CCI said “No doubt, Google, being the gateway, generates substantial traffic for news publishers, but at the same time, the bargaining power imbalance and denial of fair share in the advertising revenue, as alleged by the informant, merit detailed investigation”.

Now CCI seeks to examine if Google imposes any discriminatory condition or price on various news publishers and whether the use of news snippets by Google is a result of bargaining power imbalance between Google on the one hand and news publishers on the other, and whether it affects the referral traffic to news publisher websites, and thus, their monetization abilities.

Accordingly, the CCI has directed the Director General (DG) to do an investigation into the matter and submit the report in 60 days from the date of receipt of the order.

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