The Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country’s fair-play watchdog, has found Google to have abused its dominant position in online general web search and web search advertising services in India and imposed a penalty of Rs 136 crore.
The order was passed in response to complaints filed by Matrimony.com and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012, a statement issued by CCI said.
“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..,” the commission said in its order.
The commission imposed a penalty of Rs 136 crore on Google for anti-trust conduct and asked it to deposit the amount within 60 days of receiving the order. The final order was passed by a majority of 4-2 with two members issuing a dissenting note.
A Google spokesperson said the company would review “the narrow concerns identified by the commission and assess our next steps”.
Google Flight comes under scanner of fairplay watchdog
CCI noted that the allegations against Google linked to search results centred around design of search engine result page (SERP). It noted in its order that product design is an important and integral dimension of competition, and undue intervention in designs of SERP can affect legitimate product improvements. “CCI further observed in its order that 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,” the statement said. It said that CCI found prominent display of commercial flight unit by Google on SERP with link to Google’s specialised search options, services (flight) in contravention of some provisions of Competition Act.
The CCI order said that Google, through its search design, has not only placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on SERP, it has also allocated disproportionate real estate to such units to the disadvantage of verticals trying to gain market access. “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 in unfair imposition upon the users of general search services as well,” the statement said.
The order said 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 search engines.
The CCI has also observed that 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. However, the fair play watchdog did not find any contravention linked to Google’s specialised search design (OneBoxes), Ad-Words, online intermediation and distribution agreements, the statement added. A Google spokesperson told TOI, “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.”