First time: India regulator CCI imposes US$21 mln penalty on Google for 'search bias' vs Google case verdict is out


In a first of its kind, India's fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday fined the global tech giant Google Rs 136.86 crore ($21.1 million) for abuse of its dominance and biased search practices in India.

The CCI gave its verdict on complaints, filed in 2012, by CUTS, a consumer forum led by Pradeep Mehta, and Consim, which was a matrimonial website and Google AdWords customer, alleging that the search giant had been "infringing anti-trust conduct".

However, Google maintained unbias and said it would review the ruling before making a decision. A spokesman for Google India 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."

Similar to Europe, Google in India was accused of indulging in abuse of its overwhelming and dominant position in the online search market through practices leading to search bias and manipulation.

"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 CCI said in its order, giving the search giant 60 days to deposit the fine. The penalty amount is nearly five percent of Google's average total revenue in India for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

After the initial complaint made in June 2012, the CCI asked its investigative arm to conduct a probe and based on the preliminary report submitted in August 2015, the CCI shared the evidence with Google in September 2016, giving it two months time to study and file its reply.

Based on Google's oral submissions in January 2017, the CCI has given its penalty order under Section 27 of the Competition Act, 2002 of India. "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," said CCI in its verdict.

The commission has noted that Google's compensation policy is "entirely discretionary and does not place any obligation on it to compensate the advertisers for losses that can be attributed to Google's system error." It has also observed that Google needs to take up responsibility for any aberrations in the system which subjects other websites to unfair treatment under its AdWords mechanism.

(With inputs from IANS)

This article was first published on February 9, 2018