Cooperation between Federal Ministry of Health and Google stopped

On behalf of the health portal NetDoktor, a subsidiary of Hubert Burda Media, Hausfeld has successfully challenged a cooperation between the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and Google for the insertion of health information.

The court considers it proven that the BMG and Google entered into an agreement on the display of information from the federal government's health portal  The agreement implies that when users search for health information on Google, Google displays an info box with information from the BMG's National Health Portal and a link to this portal in a prominent position on the search results pages.

The Munich Regional Court grants two emergency motions filed by Hausfeld and prohibits the cooperation of the defendants in its judgements today.

The court argues that the BMG's operation of the National Health Portal is not a purely sovereign activity, but an economic one. The agreement with Google should therefore not restrict competition on the market for health portals. However, the court considers this to be the case. The info box directs users more to the BMG portal and restricts the visibility of other portals, such as NetDoktor. This leads to a reduction in the number of users of NetDoktor and thus potentially to a loss of advertising revenue, which NetDoktor, as a private provider, uses to finance its portal. 

The decisions of the Munich Regional Court are seen in the media as a victory for freedom of the press. On the one hand, because, according to the court, Google has left the realm of internet search through the info boxes and has itself become a content provider, which it then favours in the search. On the other hand, because the cooperation with the federal government's editorialised health portal contradicts the requirement that the press be independent of the state. Both decisions are final.

You can find the press release of the Munich Regional Court here.

The full Netdoktor Google judgement.

Summary and evaluation by Prof. Dr. Thomas Höppner: Unhealthy ranking conspiracy: The German NetDoktor judgments banning the favoring of a health portal within Google Search