Google faces $21 mn fine in India for search bias

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The Competition Commission of India (CCI), the antitrust watchdog, has imposed $21.17 million fine on Google for search bias and abuse of its dominant position.

A Reuters report said Google, which competes with Microsoft, was abusing its dominance in online web search and online search advertising markets.

“Google was found to be indulging in practices of search bias and by doing so, it causes harm to its competitors as well as to users,” the CCI said in a 190-page order.

“Google was leveraging its dominance in the market for online general web search, to strengthen its position in the market for online syndicate search services,” the CCI said.

The CCI said it did not find any contravention in respect of Google’s specialized search design, AdWords and online distribution agreements.

A Google spokesman said the company was reviewing the “narrow concerns” identified by the Commission and will assess its next steps.

“We have always focused on innovating to support the evolving needs of our users. CCI has confirmed that, on the majority of issues it examined, our conduct complies with Indian competition laws,” he said.

The European Commission imposed $3 billion fine on Google for favoring its shopping service and demoting rival offerings. Google has appealed against the order.

The CCI said that Google through its search design placed its commercial flight search function at a prominent position on the search results page to the disadvantage of businesses trying to gain market access.

Matchmaking website Bharat Matrimony and a not-for-profit organization, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), filed a case in 2012.

CCI decided to impose a fine at the rate of 5 percent of the average revenue generated by Google India for infringing antitrust conduct.

Naval Chopra, a partner at law firm Shardul Amarchand who represented Bharat Matrimony in the case, said he was surprised by the small amount of the fine imposed on the U.S. tech giant.

“Whilst finding Google to have abused its dominant position, CCI has nonetheless exercised restraint in recognizing the dynamic nature of online markets and not found Google guilty of every allegation,” Chopra told Reuters.

The Indian watchdog expressed disappointment with Google for saying it was not possible to collate all the revenue data in the time allotted.

Google will need to deposit the fine within 60 days, the Commission said. CCI passed the order by a majority of 4-2 with two members dissenting.

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