News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) has approached fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) against tech giant Alphabet, Inc. and its subsidiaries (Google) alleging anti-competitive practices that violate the Competition Law. 

It has alleged that revenue shared by Google with news publishers does not compensate for the content generated by the publishers on the platform.

Based on this NBDA complaint, the CCI released an order on Friday and clubbed the matter with the ongoing investigations in similar cases initiated at the behest of Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) and The Indian Newspaper Society (INS).

NBDA, in its information before CCI, alleged that its members are forced to provide their news content to Google in order to prioritise their weblinks in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) of Google. Thus, Google free-rides on the content of the members. 

It has also alleged that Google exploited the dependency of the members of the association on the search engine offered by Google for referral-traffic to build services such as Google News, Google Discover and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which utilise the value of content created by the members for its own economic benefit.

The complaint alleges that Google abused its dominant position to dictate terms and conditions of the Terms of Service of the Agreement, which unilaterally favour Google. Members of the association have no negotiating or bargaining power while entering into any agreement with Google, as Google’s search engine owns 94 per cent market share in the country, NBDA has said.

Ad inventory  

NBDA also alleged that Google is able to abuse its dominant position to restrict its members from routing ad inventory to multiple exchanges and by preferentially routing members inventory to Google’s exchange.

Simultaneously, Google used its dominant position to force the NBDA members into using AMP or lose their ranking in the mobile search result, NBDA said. 

Google is alleged to use AMP to subvert revenues of the NBDA members by preventing them from forming a direct relationship with the user, as the readers/users spend more time on Google’s site, seeing Google’s advertisement as opposed to any paid advertising on the content provider’s site.

Earlier probes

CCI, in January this year, ordered investigation against Google on the complaint filed by DNPA against Google finding Google  prima facie to have abused its dominant position. 

While ordering investigation, CCI noted in its order that “The Commission also takes note of the development in some countries such as France and Australia, as referred by the Informant, that Google 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. 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….. The investigation by the DG would be able to examine the issues in a comprehensive manner by giving an opportunity to all concerned to present their case”.

Subsequently, INS had also filed a similar case which was clubbed with the aforesaid case. 

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