Google offers commitments to close investigation in Italy

On 14 May 2010, the Italian Competition Authority (“AGCM”) published the commitments (available on the AGCM website) offered by Google to put an end to an antitrust investigation of its Google News service under Article 102 TFEU (see Newsletter 5/2009 p. 10 and Newsletter 2/2010 p. 11 for more background information).  Italian publishers complained that Google’s use of newspaper content in its news service limited their ability to draw traffic to their own websites, depriving them of advertising revenue.  In particular, they claimed that Google excluded from its search engine any publications that declined to appear on Google News Italia.

Google’s proposed measures appear to enhance existing features of its Google News service by ensuring that newspaper publishers do not have their content excluded from Google’s search engine.  Google will also disclose more information about its revenue-sharing mechanisms.

First, Google has offered to run a separate mechanism – a crawler, i.e. a computer program used by search engines to process and index web pages – from Google News for three years.  Publishers will be able to exclude their content from the news aggregator without prejudice to the inclusion of the content on Google’s search engine.

Secondly, Google will also enhance transparency by communicating the percentage (so far Google communicated absolute figures) of revenue-sharing for publishers affiliated to its advertising intermediary AdSense. According to the AGCM clear, detailed, and verifiable information is fundamental for allowing Google services to be compared to competing offerings.

The commitments are open to consultation for a month and the AGCM will conclude its assessment by the end of September. [Gabriele Accardo]