News Corp Files Complaint Alleging Google Abuse of Search Dominance

News Corporation has filed a formal complaint with the European Commission alleging abuse of its dominance in the search business.

At the same time, Europe’s competition regulator has highlighted her concerns about the technology giant’s contracts with phone makers that use its Android operating system.

The complaint from News Corp accuses the American company of “scraping” or copying content from other sites and using its dominance to promote its own news search results over rival sites, The Times reported.

The complaint comes after similar concerns raised by News Corp in 2014, when it opposed an attempt by Google to settle antitrust allegations in Europe. At the time, Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, characterised Google as a “platform for piracy.”

The Commission has already taken legal action against Google for allegedly giving an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service in breach of EU antitrust rules. That action came after a five-year investigation, during which European regulators sought, and failed, three times to settle with Google, which has strenuously denied the charges.

European regulators are also investigating allegations that Google routinely enters exclusive agreements with advertisers and restricts their ability to use rival platforms.

Separately this week, the UK Parliament’s EU Internal Market Sub-Committee published its report Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market investigating whether large platforms such as Google, Amazon and Uber operate above the law.

The report found that large networks can become “gateways through which markets and information are accessed” and “likely to possess substantial market power.” The report said that competition law was too slow and some tech mergers were going “under the radar.”

Instead of introducing a new regulatory framework for platforms, the existing regulations should be updated and more robustly enforced, the report said.

In a speech to mark European Competition and Consumer Day, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager outlined further concerns about Google, this time about its practice of providing pre-installed suites of apps to smartphone and tablet manufacturers that use its Android operating system.

She said: “By requiring phone makers and operators to pre-load a set of Google apps, rather than letting them decide for themselves which apps to load, Google might have cut off one of the main ways that new apps can reach customers.”

The Commission has now set out its preliminary findings in a Statement of Objections which was sent to Google on 20 April. The company has 12 weeks in which to respond. 

The Times reported that Google fired back on all fronts yesterday. On the Android complaint, a spokeswoman said: “Hardware manufacturers and carriers can decide how to use Android and consumers have the last word about which apps they want to use on their devices. We continue to discuss this with the European commission.”

On the complaint from News Corp, she said: “Google News and Search send billions of clicks for free to the websites of news publishers. We also work with European publishers to support journalism online and a more sustainable ecosystem for news.”