The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a fine of Rs.135.86 crore or nearly $21 million on Google for “search bias” and abusing its “dominant position” in the market. The CCI in its order said that allegations against the search giant centred around design of the search engine result page.
The CCI noted three instances of such instances. In flight searches, it found Google to have placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on the search engine result page. This was in contravention of some of the provisions of Competition Act.
Further, the commission said that prohibitions under search intermediation agreements have been unfair to the publishers as they restricted choice and prevented them from using search services from other search engines. CCI also added that the company was leveraging its dominance in web search to strengthen its position in online syndicate search services, as competitors were denied access to the market.
“Google, being the gateway to the internet for a vast majority of internet users due to its dominance in the online web search market, is under an obligation to discharge its special responsibility,” CCI said in a statement.
“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,” a Google spokesperson said.
The order was passed in response to information filed by Matrimony.com Limited and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012.
Google and governance
Notably, in March 2014, the CCI had fined the search giant Rs 1 crore for failing to comply with directives given by the Director-General (DG) seeking information and documents in the same case.
In October 2017, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal ruled that Google India will be required to pay up back taxes on Rs 1,457 crore remitted by Google India to Google Ireland Limited between 2007-08 and 2012-13. Google Ireland was at the centre of an alleged global tax-avoidance structure for the company.
Regulatory authorities in many parts of the world have moved to crack down on the search giant for malpractices recently. In June 2017, the European Commission fined Google €2.42 billion (or $2.7 billion) for taking unfair advantage of its dominance as a search engine to push its own shopping comparison service to the top of search results. Google was found to be in breach of the European Union’s (EU) antitrust rules.