Wednesday, 13 March 2019 05:19

Oracle uses ACCC submission to put boot into Google Featured

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Oracle uses ACCC submission to put boot into Google Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Database giant Oracle Corporation has no stake in the online media business in Australia as far as is known, but the company has nevertheless taken the chance to have a hefty whack at its old foe, Google, through a submission to the ACCC's digital platforms inquiry.

In a 72-page submission in response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's preliminary report, Oracle made no secret of what it was taking aim at, saying, "In providing this submission to the ACCC, Oracle Corporation wishes to focus primarily on the activities of one digital platform, Google, and the way that Google’s actions in a number of different areas have had, and continue to have, a detrimental impact on Australian consumers and small businesses.

"This submission will focus upon how Google exploits consumers and small businesses and in doing so forecloses competition in advertising markets. This, as is further explored in the Preliminary Report, has had follow-on negative impacts in the media sector in Australia."

Thus far, the strongest words uttered in submissions to this report have come from News Corporation, but that company has a big stake in Australian media.

The ACCC published its preliminary report in December last year. It concluded that Google had substantial market power in online search, search advertising and news referral while Facebook had similar clout in markets for social media, display advertising and online news referral. It invited submissions on this report for consideration before the final report was issued.

The watchdog has been releasing submissions since 4 May and put out a fresh batch on Tuesday, Oracle's among them.

Oracle said it was of the belief that the inquiry should reveal to Australians the extent of collection of personal information by Google, "how it is gathered and how it is used (including how Google combines information to infer other personal information that the consumer did not intend to provide)".

"Without this understanding it is difficult for consumers to determine the value of their personal information or make informed and real choices. Such investigations and independent analysis, as has been undertaken by the ACCC, also demonstrate how Google, by acting in an unconstrained manner, creates barriers to competition that need to be addressed in a timely manner to the benefit of consumers and the competitive process, the company said.

Oracle and Google have been butting heads in a nine-year-long court battle, with the case having been taken to the Supreme Court by Google in January order to try and get the highest court in the US to hear its plea, and declare that the more than 15,000 lines of Java code that it used in its Android mobile operating system constitute "fair use".

In its submission, Oracle said that based on the recommendations made in the preliminary report, action should be taken against Google.

"The recommendations and the guidance provided by the outcome of the investigations will also assist in ensuring that, in future, no other company will be able to abuse substantial market power obtained from its dominant position, in the manner that Google has been able to in the relevant online markets," Oracle said.

"This is important as Google’s anti-competitive behaviour has resulted in such negative impacts for Australian consumers and small business as well as for the competitive process."

Google has already been fined numerous times for alleged privacy violations and monopolistic practices. In January, France fined the company €50 million (US$56.8 million) for violations of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.

In July last year, the EU fined Google €4.3 billion for allegedly breaching anti-trust rules over its Android mobile operating system. Google has challenged this fine.

And in June 2017, Google was fined €2.42 billion by the EU for allegedly abusing its search engine dominance to give illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. The company has appealed against this fine too.

A third fine is said to be in the EU pipeline, this for alleged anti-business practices involving Google's AdSense advertising system.

The EU has also floated the idea of breaking up Google into a number of smaller units, with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager saying the political bloc harbours "grave suspicions" about the firm's dominance of the search market.

Brussels is not the only one to fine Google for anti-business practices. In February 2017, the Competition Commission of India fined the company 135.86 crore rupees (about US$21.1 million) for "abusing its dominant position in online general Web search and Web search advertising services in India".

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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