Competition Commission Fines Google Rs 136 Crore for Search Bias
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on 8 February imposed a fine of Rs 135.86 crore on Google, on the grounds that they abused their dominant position in offering web search services in India. This constitutes a violation of the Competition Act 2002.
The case was filed against Google after the CCI received information from Matrimony.com Limited and Consumer Unity & Trust Society back in 2012. The informants alleged that Google was manipulating search engine results to benefit their own services.
The CCI found this to be case, particularly when it came to display of airline flight information.
They found that Google was placing links at prominent positions on search result pages which would link to Google’s own flight search units – this made it difficult for new flight agencies to get a foothold in the online flight search market. Google was also placing links to its own specialised search result page in other commercial units.
The Commission also found that certain provisions in search intermediation agreements entered into between Google and various publishers were unfair because of restrictions in these contracts on the abilities of the publishers to enter into arrangements with other competing search engines. Lastly, the CCI found that Google was indulging in unfair practices to strengthen its position in the market for online syndicate search services.
According to the CCI, “since Google is the gateway to the internet for a vast majority of internet users, due to its dominance in the online web search market, it is under an obligation to discharge its special responsibility.” All the issues noted above constituted an abuse of Google’s dominant position, hence leading to the fine.
The Commission did not find any violation of Competition law in respect of Google’s specialised search design, advertising, etc. The fine imposed was calculated at 5% of their average total revenue generated from India operations for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Google was also fined EUR 2.4 billion by the European Union in June 2017 for a similar abuse of their dominance in the search engine market when it came to online shopping comparisons. The search engine giant appealed the order in September 2017, though the two cases are not related. They are also facing antitrust charges in the EU relating to their advertising regime.