Friday, 09 February 2018 11:32

India fines Google for abuse of Web search dominance Featured

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The Competition Commission of India, the country's anti-trust watchdog, has fined Google 135.86 crore rupees (about US$21.1 million) for "abusing its dominant position in online general Web search and Web search advertising services in India".

A statement from the CCI said that the fine had been levied following complaints by two websites in 2012: matchmaking website Bharat Matrimony (Matrimony.com) and the non-profit Consumer and Trust Society.

Google was fined €2.42 billion (US$2.7 billion) by the European Union in June last year for allegedly abusing its search engine dominance to give illegal advantage to its own comparison shopping service. The company has appealed the decision.

It also faces EU fines over its AdSense advertising system and its Android mobile operating system.

The CCI said it had found Google giving undue prominence to its own flight services among search results, disadvantaging other firms that were trying to gain a spot in the same results page.

"Besides, it was also found that Google has provided a further link in such commercial units which leads users to its specialised search result page (Google Flight) resulting into unfair imposition upon the users of general search services as well," the CCI said.

The fine represents 5% of Google's average total revenue from its operations in India.

“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,” CCI said in its 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.”

Reuters quoted Naval Chopra, a partner at the law firm Shardul Amarchand, as saying he was surprised at the small fine.

“Whilst finding Google to have abused its dominant position, the CCI has nonetheless exercised restraint in recognising the dynamic nature of online markets and not found Google guilty of every allegation,” said Chopra, who represented Bharat Matrimony.

The CCI said it did not find that Google’s specialised search design (OneBoxes), AdWords, online intermediation and distribution agreements had contravened any Indian law.

The company has to deposit the fine within 60 days.

A Google spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying the company was reviewing the “narrow concerns” identified by the CCI and would consider what to do next.

“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,” he said.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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