Antitrust abuse pro­ceed­ings open against Google

Pro­ceed­ings by the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt strength­en effec­tive enforce­ment of appro­pri­ate remu­ner­a­tion for press pub­lish­ers’ ancil­lary rights.

Press Release
Berlin, 2021-06-08
Andreas Mundt, Pres­i­dent of the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt:“Google’s strong posi­tion in access to cus­tomers must not lead to a crowd­ing out of com­pet­ing offers from pub­lish­ers or oth­er news providers.” (see BKar­tA press release of June 4, 2021, link at bot­tom of page).

A probe into the news plat­form Google News Show­case was launched today by the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt after an announce­ment that it has ini­ti­at­ed pro­ceed­ings against Google for the abuse of its dom­i­nant mar­ket posi­tion. The pro­ce­dure relies not only on exist­ing bans for abu­sive prac­tices but also on new laws that reg­u­late com­pa­nies with para­mount sig­nif­i­cance for com­pe­ti­tion across mar­kets (§ 19a GWB). These rules allow for more effec­tive and faster action against prac­tices that restrict com­pe­ti­tion, espe­cial­ly by large dig­i­tal cor­po­ra­tions.

The pro­ceed­ings were launched after a com­plaint was filed with the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt by Corint Media in Octo­ber last year, which out­lined Google’s var­i­ous vio­la­tions of the ban on abu­sive prac­tices:

  • The Google News Show­case ser­vice and its inte­gra­tion into oth­er Google ser­vices, in par­tic­u­lar Google’s search engine, is clear­ly designed to focus users’ atten­tion on the new Google-owned news ser­vice and its press con­tent. This exploits Google’s qua­si-monop­o­lis­tic posi­tion in the search engine mar­ket in an abu­sive man­ner to the detri­ment of press pub­lish­ers not par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ser­vice.
  • Equal­ly, the press pub­lish­er con­tracts under­pin­ning the ser­vice are designed in such a way that they make it impos­si­ble for pub­lish­ers to enforce appro­pri­ate remu­ner­a­tion for use of their con­tent, as intend­ed by recent leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect press pub­lish­ers’ ancil­lary rights.

Corint Media wel­comes the fact that the Bun­des­kar­tell­amt has tak­en up this com­plaint and is sub­ject­ing Google’s con­duct to an antitrust inves­ti­ga­tion. In Corint Media’s view, Google’s behav­iour not only rep­re­sents a seri­ous restric­tion of com­pe­ti­tion to the detri­ment of press pub­lish­ers but also endan­gers the eco­nom­ic foun­da­tions of the free press.

Christoph Schwennicke and Markus Runde, CEO of Corint Media: “Fol­low­ing the jus­ti­fied rede­f­i­n­i­tion of the legal frame­work between con­tent providers and con­tent-using plat­forms – on both a Euro­pean and nation­al scale – through the amend­ment of antitrust law and the intro­duc­tion of ancil­lary rights for press pub­lish­ers, the open­ing of these pro­ceed­ings is the next impor­tant step for the con­crete appli­ca­tion of the law. Glob­al tech com­pa­nies also have to oper­ate with­in the legal and reg­u­la­to­ry frame­works that we have estab­lished in non-vio­lent democ­ra­cies. Vio­la­tions of these legal frame­works require sys­tem­at­ic pro­cess­ing and pros­e­cu­tion.”   

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