Indian watchdog for fair play, Competition Commission of India (CCI), has imposed a fine of $21.1 million (approx. Rs 1.36 billion rupees) on Google after findings show that the tech giant is guilty of abusing its dominant position in web search.
According to information released by the commission, “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 competitors were denied access to the online search syndication services market due to such a conduct."
CCI issued the fine in response to suits filed in 2012 by Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) and Matrimony.com. "The commission has given thoughtful consideration on the submissions made by Google and finds it appropriate to impose a penalty at the rate of 5% of their average total revenue generated from India operations from different business segments for the financial year 2013, 2014 and 2015 as provided by Google during its submission," CCI added.
In the last quarter of 2017, Google was slapped with a record-breaking fine of $27 billion for antitrust violations – a fine tied to a multi-year investigation of shopping search comparison by Google. Recently the displays of Google’s shopping search results have been amended in a bid to avoid more fine, though rivals are still calling for more changes. The call is because about 99 percent of Google’s own shopping search ads are still displaying with shopping search results.
In the Rs 136 crore worth penalty, Google was also alleged to be frustrating consumer's choice by preventing them from having access to ‘flight’ market competitors. “Further, prohibitions imposed under the negotiated search intermediation agreements upon the publishers have been held to be unfair as they restricted the choice of these partners and prevented them from using the search services provided by competing for search engines,” CCI writes. Also, payment for the infringing antitrust conduct is expected to be deposited "within 60 days after receiving the order."
According to TOI, a Google spokesperson said, "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."
If the alleged vertical search product feature is practical, analysts suggest that the $21.1 million fine is just a change for the US technology giant considering its potential revenue and financial force in Asia. Google announced a $1.2-billion investment in Indonesia's ride-hailing Go-Jek earlier this year, after closing a $12-million investment deal in India late 2017. According to Alphabet, Google recorded $110.8 billion in revenue for 2017.
The penalty by Competition Commission India is expected to provoke more precautions from the tech giant as EU watchdog is said to be actively investigating other of its products, including the Android operating system. Complaints against products like Google travel search, maps, etc has already been acknowledged by the EU while other investigations are in the pipeline.