Italian Competition Authority widens investigation into Google

On 3 March 2010, the Italian Competition Authority (“ICA”) decided to include Google Ireland in its ongoing investigation of last August 2009 (see Newsletter 5/2009 p. 10) to ascertain whether the contract conditions imposed by Google on Italian Web site publishers for online ad-serving breach Article 102 TFEU, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position.  The reason to extend the investigation is that the Web site publishers enter into the standard AdSense contract with Google Ireland.

The ICA’s press release sheds further lights on the scope of the ongoing investigation.  In particular, the ICA is concerned that the lack of transparency of and verifiability as to the revenue-sharing mechanism according to which Google calculates publishers’ compensation, would have a serious impact on the commercial activities of Web sites publishers affiliated to the AdSense program.  The compensation they receive, the ICA states, appears to be left entirely to Google’s “discretion”, to the extent that Google does not have any obligation to reveal the calculation methods it employs and may modify the formulas whenever it likes at its own exclusive discretion.

The ICA considers that clear, detailed, and verifiable information is fundamental for allowing Google services to be compared to competing offerings. [Gabriele Accardo]