Google Fined Rs 136 Crore in India for ‘Search Bias’
The Competition Commission of India slapped Rs 135.86 crore fine on Google for unfair business practices.
India’s antitrust regulator, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), on Feb. 8 slapped a fine of about Rs 136 crore on Google Inc for unfair business practices in displaying bias in their online search in local market.
The CCI, acting on complaints filed in 2012, said that Google is being penalized for “infringing anti-trust conduct.” The complaint stated that Google abused its dominant position in online search with practices that lead to search bias and search manipulation.
The regulator found that users searching, for example, flight details were directed to Google’s own flight search page. Talking about the search bias, CCI said, “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.”
As per the CCI order, the penalty of Rs 135.86 crore is about 5 per cent of the firm’s average total revenue generated from India operations in its different business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The CCI acknowledged submissions made by Google by saying it made a “thoughtful consideration” of it and found it appropriate to impose a fine. The ruling was based on complaints filed by Matrimony.com and Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) against Google LLC, Google India Pvt. Ltd and Google Ireland Ltd.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the regulator found that the company’s conduct on a majority of issues examined were in compliance with Indian laws. “We have always focused on innovating to support the evolving needs of our users. The Competition Commission of India has confirmed that, on the majority of issues it examined, our conduct complies with Indian competition laws. We are reviewing the narrow concerns identified by the Commission and will assess our next steps,” the spokesperson said.
Naval Chopra, a partner at law firm Shardul Amarchand, which was representing Bharat Matrimony in the case, told Reuters: “Whilst finding Google to have abused its dominant position, the CCI has nonetheless exercised restraint in recognizing the dynamic nature of online markets and not found Google guilty of every allegation.”
Google has been given time of 60 days to deposit the fine.
Just last year in July, the European Union fined Google a record €2.4 billion for the same after a seven-year investigation into the issue. The European regulators said: “By artificially and illegally promoting its own price comparison service in searches, Google denied both its consumers real choice and rival firms the ability to compete on a level playing field.”
Google has appealed against the decision in European Union courts, saying it “respectfully disagrees” with the conclusion and would review the decision in detail.