Global search giant Google has faced a setback from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) as the antitrust watchdog imposed a penalty of Rs 136 crore on search engine firm for unfair business practices in the Indian market for online search.
According to the order passed by CCI, 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 regulator also said the penalty is being imposed on Google for “infringing anti-trust conduct”.
Indulging in search bias means manipulating the search algorithm to suppress results of the competition and unfairly promoting its own services like Google News, YouTube, Google Maps etc. This reduces traffic to competing for specialised search services, reports Bloomberg.
The probe first started by the watchdog in 2012 on complaints filed by matchmaking website Bharat Matrimony (now Matrimony.com) and a not-for-profit organisation, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).
The Commission decided to impose a fine at the rate of 5 per cent of the average total revenue generated by the company from its Indian operations for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Google will need to deposit the fine within 60 days, the Commission said. The order was passed by a majority of 4-2 with two members dissenting.
Google provides online search services and online advertising business, namely AdWords and AdSense. Being dominant in both online general web search services and online search advertising services market in India, Google has reportedly abused its leadership position.
Besides the aforementioned complainant, Facebook, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip and several other entities also submitted their complaints regarding the matter.
Notably, 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 US tech giant.
On the other side, a Google spokesman said the company was reviewing the “narrow concerns” identified by the Commission and will assess its next steps.
Google faces antitrust claims across the world
This is not the first time Google is facing heat from any regulatory body. It has been battling anti-trust claims in Canada, Russia, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, and Italy. In April last year, Google had entered into a voluntary settlement with Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service.
In June last year, the European Commission had imposed a whopping $2.7 billion penalty on Google for violating competition law. Google since challenged the case which is under review.
Five months later, the search giant admitted that Phones running Android have been gathering data about a user’s location and sending it back to Google when connected to the internet or even if users turned off location services and don’t have a SIM card. It’s a practice that customers can’t opt out of, even if their phones are factory reset.