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France says Google breached its orders over its conversations with news publishers

Two sources who read the investigators’ report said French antitrust investigators accused Alphabet Inc’s Google of failing to comply with government competition authority orders over how to conduct copyright negotiations with news publishers.

In the 93-page report, known as the Statement of Objections, the sources said that investigators wrote that Google’s non-compliance was of a very serious nature.

This comes amid complaints from French news publishers that Google has failed to hold talks with them in good faith to reach an agreement.

The publishers themselves were not part of a three-year, $ 76 million deal signed between the US company and a group of 121 publications, as Reuters reported earlier this month.

The agreement was presented as a major step forward by both Google and the publishers who signed it but left many posts furious.

The French competition authority can impose ends of up to 10% of sales on companies it deems to be in violation of its rules. Google’s annual sales were about $ 183 billion in 2020.

The investigation report is a key component of the authority’s sanction process, but it is up to the oversight board, led by Isabel de Silva, to decide whether to issue a sanction.

It was the largest penalty ever imposed by the French antitrust agency against iPhone maker Apple Inc last year, with a fine of $ 1.34 billion for its anti-competitive behavior toward the distribution and retail network.

A spokeswoman for the competition authority declined to comment.

In response to a Reuters request for comment, Google said in a statement: “Our priority is to comply with the law and continue negotiating with publishers in good faith, as evidenced by the agreements we have made with publishers in the past few years. Months.”

“We will now review the statement of objections and work closely with the French competition authority,” she said.

The French report on Google’s negotiation tactics comes at a time when countries around the world are pushing US internet giants like Google and Facebook Inc to share more revenue with news publishers.

The case gained international attention this week when Facebook banned all news from its services in Australia over a bill there that would force arbitration.

According to the two sources, French investigators say Google has not complied with requests from the watchdog to start negotiations with publishers within three months to provide all the data the watchdog felt the publishers needed.

The publisher lobby that signed the deal with Google, APIG, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Agence France-Presse and another media lobby group, SEPM – both of whom have not signed an agreement with Google – did not respond to requests for comment.

Reuters reached its global agreement with Google in January on terms that were not publicly disclosed.

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