India to Investigate Google Over Unfair Dealings with News Publishers

According to a TechCrunch article published last Friday by Manish Singh, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) said it will investigate Google after receiving complaints from news publishers alleging that the advertising giant’s online search contracts impose unfair conditions on them.

The CCI contends that Google dominates certain online services and preliminarily, it sees Google as violating the country’s antitrust laws, pointing to new rules abroad where Google has been required to enter into fair negotiations with news publishers for the paid licensing of content and to address bargaining power inequities. 

The complainant is the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), an organization comprised of the digital divisions of India’s largest media firms. The DNPA says that its members get more than half of their traffic from online searches and Google’s dominant position has allowed it to force the publishers into unfavorable deal terms.

The associations’ complaint said that Google’s display of news headline snippets limits the number of visits to members’ websites and consequently, their ad revenue. Conversely, the DNPA accused Google of reaping massive profits from ads placed on its results page while enriching its search algorithm due to voluminous search queries.

TechCrunch reported on the CCI’s order, which said that Indian news publishers are essentially forced to accept terms offered by Google because the company is a “gateway between various news publishers on the one hand and news readers on the other.” The order noted that because of Google’s dominance in the market, forgoing traffic generated from its search engine would be ruinous to DNPA members.

According to TechCrunch, the investigation is the CCI’s latest tech-related inquiry in recent weeks. In the closing days of 2021, it reportedly ordered an investigation of Apple’s App Store practices.