Wednesday, 15 August, 2018

Google fined by India's antitrust commission over 'search bias'

It was alleged that Google is indulging in abuse of dominant position in the market for online search through practices leading to search bias and search manipulation among others Competition Commission of India fines Google for search bias
Troy Mann | 09 February, 2018, 05:30

India's anti-trust watchdog February 8 fined US-based search giant Google (pdf) $1.36 billion rupee ($21 million), or about 5% of the average total revenue from its India operations, for "search bias". According to the press release, the order was passed after investigations were carried out in response to complaints filed by Matrimony.com Limited and Consumer Utility & Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012. "CCI noted in its order that Google through its search design has not only placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on SERP, it has also allocated disproportionate real estate thereof to such units to the disadvantage of verticals trying to gain market access, " added CCI.

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Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson said: "We have always focused on innovating to support the evolving needs of our users". The box, which advertisers can pay to be featured in, is usually displayed prominently in Google's search results when a user searches for a flight or airline through the main search engine. The CCI further found Google's advertising agreements, which prevented publishers from using the search services of competing search engines, to be unfair.

"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.

A Google spokesman said the company was reviewing the "narrow concerns" identified by the Commission and will assess its next steps. The search giant says it is reviewing the complaints.

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"What Google has done is illegal under European Union antitrust rules".

According to the CCI order, the penalty amount is almost five per cent of Google's average total revenue in India for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Google now has 60 days to deposit the fine, the commission said.

The law firm representing Bharat Matrimony said that the CCI's order provided welcome closure after a six-year long battle with the internet behemoth. "And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation", Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy had then said.

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