it_google by wuyunyi


									• Italy: The Competition Authority (AGCM) widens Investigation into Google:
  Website Contract Conditions for Online ad-serving under Investigation
On 14 May 2010, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM) published for
market test the formal commitments proposed by Google in the framework of the investigation
of the AdSense Program (a service through which website owners engage Google as an
intermediary in order to sell advertising space). Those commitments consist of:
1) Maintaining a new dedicated crawler for Google News (software which scans automatically
   websites looking for the contents to show through Google News online service), so that
   publishers can exclude their contents from Google News without the risk of excluding them
   from Google search; and
2) Revealing the revenue sharing formula relating to AdSense and modifications thereto.
The comments on the proposed commitments must be submitted by 13 June 2010.
On 3 March 2010, the AGCM had decided to widen the investigation that was initiated last
summer to determine whether the contract conditions imposed on Italian website publishers
for online advertisement serving in the framework of the AdSense Program represent an abuse
of dominant position by Google, pursuant to Article 102 TFEU.
The investigation, opened in August 2009 (case A420) against Google News relates to alleged
tying between Google Search and Google News. A complaint by FIEG (the Italian Association of
Newspaper and Periodical Publishers) pointed out, among the other allegations, that publishers
lacked control over own content (snippets, images, etc.) displayed by Google News. In order to
address that specific aspect, Google introduced a new dedicated crawler for Google News, so
that publishers can define restrictions specific to Google News and that the restrictions do not
affect directly Google search.
The new scope of the investigation includes the AdSense system. The standard contract
"General Terms and Conditions of Google's Online AdsenseTM Program", a document which
was found by the AGCM during the course of inspections, revealed that the calculation of the
AdSense subscriber compensation is often entirely at Google's discretion. Moreover, Google
does not acknowledge any obligation to reveal the calculation methods it employs, and
payments are calculated exclusively on the basis of registers maintained by Google alone.
Finally, Google may modify the price- and/or payment-determining formulas at any point in
time at its own exclusive discretion.
In essence, the standard AdSense contract (concluded with Google Ireland Limited, the firm to
which the Antitrust Authority is extending the investigation) prescribes that publisher
compensation is to reflect a percentage of Google's own earnings as determined by advertising
banner visualizations on the publisher properties in question. The contract for subscribing to
the AdSense program defines revenue-sharing percentages in a way that makes it impossible
for Google's counterparts to verify how their actual compensations are calculated.
According to the AGCM, Google's contract conditions fail to provide subscribed website
publishers with clear, detailed and verifiable indications of how their compensation is
determined. Such information is considered to be fundamental for the assessment of Google's
intermediation services, and this lack of transparency and verifiability has a serious impact on
the commercial and entrepreneurial activities of publishers who have subscribed to the
AdSense program. It inhibits the development and improvement of their own websites, for
instance, as well as the comparison of Google's services with competing products offered by
other intermediaries.
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