Perhaps the most shocking news of 2018 is here. Internet giant Google has been imposed upon a fine of ₹136 Crore by Competition Commission for unfair business practices in the Indian market for online search. To look back, this after a detailed probe on the complaints filed in 2012, the regulator through a majority order regarded the penalty has been issued on Google for ‘infringing anti-trust conduct’.
Regarding this step by CCI, a Google spokesperson added that the company is “reviewing the narrow concerns identified by the Commission and will assess our next steps”.
Globally, this is one of the rare cases to create a stir, where Google has been penalized for unfair business ways, even as it has been under probe in several countries.
To delve deep, it was alleged that Google has been indulging in the abuse of its dominant position in the market for online search. Also, these include practices leading to search bias and search manipulation, among others.
For this case, the Competition Commission of India considered markets in India for online general web search services and for online search advertising services as the relevant ones.
Further, the penalty amount of Rs 135.86 crore has been now translated to 5 percent of the company’s average total revenue generated from India operations. This revenue is further extracted from its different business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the CCI order.
The CCI however also added that it has given thoughtful consideration on the submissions made by Google on the issue of penalty and found it appropriate to impose a fine.
The ruling has come on complaints filed by Matrimony.com and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), in 2012 against Google LLC, Google India Pvt Ltd, and Google Ireland Ltd.
More on the accusation:
On the basis of the probe report submitted by the Director-General, the CCI broadly looked at four aspects. These include, whether Google biases its search results, whether it imposes unfair conditions on advertisers, whether the company’s distribution and inter-mediation agreements restrict competition.
The order read something like, “The Commission is cognizant of the fact that any intervention in technology markets has to be carefully crafted lest it stifles innovation and denies consumers the benefits that such innovation can offer. This can have a detrimental effect on economic welfare and economic growth, particularly in countries relying on high growth such as India”.
Further, the regulator also noted that product design is an important and integral dimension of competition and any undue intervention in designs of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) may affect legitimate product improvements resulting in consumer harm.
Lastly, CCI added that it has examined the issues within the permissible parameters in technology markets.