Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

Australia’s competition watchdog launched a court action against Google in July alleging the California-based company misled account holders about its use of their personal data. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 October 2020

Australian watchdog considers its own Google antitrust case

  • Competition and Consumer Commission launched Australian court action against Google in July

CANBERRA, Australia: Australia’s competition watchdog will consider its own antitrust case against Google, the commission chairman said Wednesday after the US Justice Department sued the company for abusing its dominance in online search and advertising.
Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims described the US case filed Tuesday as one of the world’s biggest antitrust cases in the past 20 years.
“I’m delighted the D.o.J.’s taking it on and we’ll follow it really closely,” Sims told the National Press Club, referring to the US Department of Justice.
“We’re going to look at it and see whether there’s any value in what we might do,” Sims added.
Separately, Sims is drafting legislation to address the imbalance in bargaining power between Google and the Australian media businesses that want the tech giant to pay for journalism.
The bills, that will be ready to be introduced to Parliament by December, would empower an arbitrator to make binding decisions on how much Google and Facebook must pay media companies for news content.
Sims said his commission “had a lot of talk” with the US Justice Department before he released a report in July last year that recommended more government regulation on the market power of Google and Facebook that would ensure fair deals for other media businesses and more control for individuals on how their data was used.
Sim’s commission launched Australian court action against Google in July alleging the California-based company misled account holders about its use of their personal data.
The commission alleges the Google misled millions of Australians to obtain their consent and expand the scope of personal information that Google collects about users’ Internet activity to target advertising. Google denies the allegations.
In October last year, the commission sued Google in an Australian court alleging the company broke consumer law by misleading Android users about how their location data was collected and used. That case will be heard by the Federal Court next month. Google also denies that allegation.
Sims said Google was lobbying “every politician at Parliament House” ahead of draft legislation being introduced to make it pay for news.
Google has said the proposed laws would result in “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube,” put free services at risk and could lead to users’ data “being handed over to big news businesses.”
Facebook has warned it might block Australian news content rather than pay for it.


SAMA to become Saudi Central Bank, with full independence

Updated 25 November 2020

SAMA to become Saudi Central Bank, with full independence

  • New central bank to be linked directly to king but its president independent of government
  • Bank’s core responsibilities to maintain monetary reserves, boost confidence, trust in financial sector

RIYADH: The Council of Ministers on Tuesday approved a new law which includes changing the name of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) to the Saudi Central Bank.

Under the legislation, the new Saudi Central Bank will be linked directly to the monarch and will enjoy full financial and managerial independence.

The Saudi Central Bank Law set out three core objectives for the new institution namely, to maintain cash stability, boost confidence and trust in the financial sector, and support economic growth.

The new legislation states that the central bank is responsible for setting and managing monetary policy and it outlines the relationship between the bank, the government, and other international important organizations and bodies. It also sets a framework to govern the bank’s operations and decisions.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, an economic expert and member of the Shoura Council, said one of the important aspects of the Saudi Central Bank Law was that it was linked directly to the king.

“This enhances its full independence with respect to setting the monetary policy and the bank’s relationship with the government and global organizations,” he added.

The law states that the abbreviation SAMA, which was established in 1952, would remain unchanged due to its historical importance domestically and internationally.

“The fact that the bank will keep the SAMA abbreviation unchanged is important and reflects a wise decision because the abbreviation is widely-known,” Al-Buainain said.

While the SAMA acronym will remain, Hassan Alwatban, an economic consultant, outlined the differences between the monetary authority and the central bank.

For the central bank to perform its duties properly, he said it needed to be fully independent when it came to decision-making, especially decisions related to managing state funds.

Another difference was that the president of the central bank would not be under the state’s authority and their nomination would be made by a legislative authority. The government or state could not appoint or remove the president except by the most supreme judiciary authority.

Thirdly, he added, a government agency could not interfere in the bank’s affairs because the bank enjoyed full monetary power.

Alwatban told Arab News: “Therefore, changing the monetary authority to a central bank is healthy for the national economy.

“The tasks of the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for financial policies, will be set apart from the tasks of the central bank, which is responsible for setting the monetary policies. Before the change, the tasks of the Ministry of Finance and SAMA overlapped.

“Besides, the Ministry of Finance was in charge of the financial policy and the monetary policy at the same time, a fact that made SAMA focus on serving the banks’ interests more than focusing on serving the interests of citizens,” he added.