German competition policeman opens investigation into Google News Showcase

The German Competition Authority, the Bundeskartellamt, is opening this Friday, June 4 an investigation into News Showcase, a platform published by Google allowing publishers of press titles to choose the articles they wish to put in advance by adding, as they wish. , related articles, images… to increase the visibility of their content.

This new procedure was initiated by a complaint from Corint Media, a European company of media companies which offers licenses for the use of digital publications and programs of private broadcasters.

Presented last October by Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, News Showcase has been operational in Germany since October 1, 2020. Nearly 20 media companies, representing 50 newspapers, have agreed to sign agreements, in the form of license, with Google for the resumption of their articles, such as the newspaper groups Der Spiegel, Stern and Die Ziet.

Balanced relationships?

As Andreas Mundt, President of the German Federal Cartel Office explains, “cooperation with Google can be attractive to publishers and other information providers “, But “we must ensure that there is no discrimination between individual publishers“. Indeed, “Google’s strong position in terms of access to end customers must not lead to the displacement of competing offers from publishers or other information providers“, he warns.

During its investigation, the German authority will examine the contractual clauses signed between Google and the publishers in order to determine whether they place the latter in “a disadvantageous situation (…) by making it excessively difficult to respect copyright” , can we read in the press release.

A few days ago, the Bundeskartellamt opened an investigation into Google’s position in the data market. The problem is as follows: does Alphabet, Google’s parent company, benefit from a “strategic advantage” thanks to the information it collects? The German regulator is also wondering if users “have enough choice as to the use of their data by Google”.

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These new investigations are part of a strengthening of the powers of the German authority thanks to the adoption of a new law in January 2021. This text provides that the Competition Authority no longer needs to qualify “an abuse of a dominant position “. Characterization of “primary importance in the market” is now enough to punish a tech company. Which simplifies prosecution.

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