Germany – court prohibits health portal cooperation with Google
The search engine Google is initially no longer allowed to automatically display the German state health portal “heil.bund.de “as the first hit after a court judgment. The Munich District Court I assessed the cooperation between Google and the German Ministry of Health as a violation of antitrust law, as emerged from an urgent decision on Wednesday.
The civil chamber, which specializes in antitrust law, has accepted applications from the Burda health portal “netdoktor.de” for two injunctions against the ministry and against Google. The media group Burda had complained that by preferring the state portal, fewer users ended up looking for information about diseases on netdoktor.de.
Google had set up its own info box for the national health portal, which has been online since September 1st, which displays information from “heil.bund.de “and links to it when searching. Private providers have no chance of getting a similarly prominent position on Google. “This leads to a reduction in the number of users at NetDoktor and thus potentially also to a loss of advertising income, with which NetDoktor, as a private provider, finances its portal,” explained the presiding judge Gesa Lutz. NetDoktor has been struggling with declining click rates since the ministry began working with Google. Because around 90 percent of users landed on the site via a Google search.
The district court does not consider the operation of the health portal of the ministry to be a sovereign task, but an economic activity that is subject to antitrust law. Even a possible better health education does not outweigh that. Serious private portals threatened to be displaced and the variety of media and opinions would be reduced. The court did not investigate whether the national health portal is even admissible. NetDoktor had withdrawn an application aimed at this. Hubert Burda Media only took over the portal from competitor Holtzbrinck in 2019. (apa / reuters)