Italian Antitrust Regulators Investigate Google

    August 27, 2009

An overseas branch of Google News may be about to get its parent unit in a lot of trouble.  Italian antitrust regulators are investigating claims that newspapers were more or less forced to contribute to the site, and certain tactics and potential penalties suggest the situation is very serious.

First, let’s discuss the allegations.  According to an article on the Wall Street Journal‘s site, the Italian Federation of Newspaper and Periodical Publishers (known also as FIEG due to translation issues) claimed, "[N]ews companies that refuse to share their news on Google News Italia are excluded from the search engine of U.S. firm Google Inc. . . ."

Then there’s the harsh punishment sometimes attached to such offenses.  The article explained, "If the regulator finds Google Italy to be in the wrong, the unit may face a fine of up to 10% of its revenue, which in 2007 totaled EUR13 million."  (That’s $18.5 million at today’s exchange rate.)

And Italian antitrust regulators aren’t exactly ready to let Google representatives mete out details in their own time.  A Bloomberg piece reported that police searched Google Italy’s offices this morning.

The probe is scheduled to end by October 15th, so we should find out in the near future what sort of obstacles Google Italy will face.