Google faces broad antitrust investigation in Italy

Not content with investigating Google's Italian subsidiary, the Antitrust Authority is after the parent company too

Italy's Antitrust Authority has broadened its investigation of Google's business practices in the country, it said Friday.

The investigation began last week, following a complaint from the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEG) that the news aggregation site, Google News Italia, was making it harder for them to attract users and advertisers.

The antitrust authority began by examining whether Google Italy was abusing its market position, but decided on Thursday to extend its investigation to encompass parent company Google in the U.S., it said.

Google has around three weeks in which to indicate whether it wishes to make representations to the authority about its behavior, according to the authority's ruling.

The company accounts for around 90 percent of the online search market in Italy, making it the main way for Italian Internet users to access content, according to the authority.

The authority is concerned that Google's "unquestioned dominance" in online search may unduly affect competition in the market for online advertising.

The original complaint received by the authority from FIEG questioned Google's use of headlines and snippets of federation members' news stories on its Google News Italia Web site.

Similar complaints have been made by news organizations in other countries, notably in Belgium, where Google eventually reached an agreement with two associations of news publishers, Sofam and Scam, and in France, where Google settled a lawsuit with Agence France Presse.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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