On February 14th, the Turkish Competition Authority ended another Google investigation and imposed its second administrative fine on the world's most popular search engine company.
The scope of the TCA's investigation
In July 2018, the Turkish Competition Authority (TCA) launched an investigation against Google Reklamcılık ve Pazarlama Ltd. Şti., Google International LLC, Google LLC and, Google Ireland Limited (Google) based on the allegations concerning abuse of dominant position in the global search engine market and complicating competitor activities in the online shopping services.
Initially, as it is expected, the TCA once again declared that Google is a dominant player in "general search engine services" and "online shopping-comparison services" markets.
Besides, within the scope of the investigation similar to the EU shopping case, the TCA concluded that placing of Google's shopping comparison platform was more advantageous (in the sense of both positioning and visual features) compared to placing of other competitors and this practice disrupted the competition amongst the players providing online shopping comparison services.
Primary concerns of the TCA in the investigation can be categorized under three groups:
- positioning of the shopping unit on Google's page,
- shopping comparison platforms not participating in the shopping unit and not bidding to place their products in the shopping unit, and
- Insufficient statements of Google in relation to the shopping unit, which in fact contains advertisement.
Possible long lasting debates on preventive measures in the upcoming days
Against this background, the Competition Board concluded that Google abused its dominant position in "general search" and "online shopping comparison services" markets. Accordingly, the TCA imposed administrative fine of 17.3 million USD (98.3 million TRY). Furthermore, the Competition Board requested Google to take preventive measures on labeling, positioning and accessing issues concerning its shopping unit services. Lastly, the TCA decided that Google should submit an annual compliance report for five years.
In order to end the violation in question and establish an effective competition in the market, the TCA requested Google to adopt following practices and gave three-months to submit the compliance measures:
- Google must position its shopping units in a reasonable manner on its page in order to ensure that traffic of the other players do not drop to their detriment.
- Similar to the mobile channel, Google must remove the click feature of the shopping unit title in other channels.
- Any uncertainties in relation to area dedicated to advertisements on Google must be reasonably eliminated and the labelling of the shopping unit must be done in accordance to this requirement.
- Should searches performed on Google explicitly include both the product name and brands or web platforms of rival shopping comparison services, Google must not place priority to its shopping unit.
When we consider the preventive measures of the TCA in the short decision, we have seen that the Competition Board preferred to determine the general scope for Google. This approach may leave Google a more extensive space for better designing its remedies or may create uncertainty to fulfill the expectations of the TCA. When taking into account the main features of Google's searching mechanisms and the importance of its positioning in Google's page, it seems that comprehensive measures that are listed by the TCA to end that infringement effectively seem to be discussed in the upcoming days beyond the administrative monetary fine of Google.
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