On January 7, 2019, the Turkish Competition Authority announced on its website a launch of a full-blown investigation against Google. Accordingly, as a result of the preliminary probe into whether the tech titan “abused its dominant position and made the efforts of other companies difficult with algorithm updates it made for public search services and with Google AdWords,” the Turkish Competition Board decided on its meeting of December 13, 2018 that the information and findings collected are serious and sufficient to merit a more intense review.
Together with another probe active since August 2018, Google is now faced with two separate antitrust investigations ongoing simultaneously in Turkey, both commonly involving abuse of dominance claims in relation to the firm’s public search services. The 2018 investigation mainly concerns allegations that Google has obstructed competitors’ activities in the online shopping services market in Turkey by abusing its dominant position in the search engine market. The newborn investigation will focus on Google’s internet search services again, but this time the scope of the review is likely to be broader with no reference to any specific online market affected by the alleged infringement.
When considered together, the subject matter of the two active antitrust processes in Turkey bears resemblance to the European Commission’s 2017 Google Shopping decision and the 2016 Google AdSense investigation. The 2017 decision fined Google EUR 2.42 billion for misusing its dominant power as a search engine to illegally privilege its own comparison shopping service and demote those of competitors in search results. On the still ongoing AdSense front, Google has been accused of thwarting rivals in online search advertising.
If, similarly, Google’s practices in Turkey are found to be producing adverse effects on local markets, we may witness another decision the Turkish antitrust enforcer reached by tracing the Commission’s footsteps, as in the case of the famous Google Android case. To remind, the Turkish Competition Board levied an administrative fine of TRY 93,083,422.30 (approximately USD 15 million) on Google in September 2018 for abuse of dominance, and this echoed the Commission’s record EUR 4.34 billion fine decision. These two decisions were related to the market for licensable mobile operating systems, where Google enjoys dominance, and both condemned the agreements and incentive practices Google entered with OEMs.
Antitrust investigations are usually concluded in 6-12 months in Turkey and the Commission’s Google AdSense investigation is nearing the end. We likely expect all three cases to be completed within 2019.