India Launches Google Antitrust Probe

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

India's competition watchdog claims the Internet giant may have rigged search results to benefit its own businesses.

India's antitrust commission has issued a report accusing Google of skewing Internet search results in favor of its own businesses by taking advantage of its dominant market position.

The allegations, which are similar to those made in an ongoing investigation into Google's business praticies by the European Commission, claim the online giant has been using its dominant position in Internet search to favor its own online services.

The report is a result of an ongoing three year probe by the Competition Commission of India.  Google is expected to file its response by Sept. 10 and has the option of asking for more time to assess the allegations. This will be followed by commission hearings and a final ruling, which Google could challenge in India's Supreme Court.

The report is likely the beginning of what could become a long and drawn-out legal battle. If Google is found guilty, India's antitrust watchdog has the authority to impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Google's global revenue. Based on Google's 2014 figures, this would mean a fine of up to $6.6 billion. Any actual fine would be based on average revenues over the past three years. The 10 percent figure is an absolute maximum and it is unlikely that Google, if found guilty, would be required to pay the full amount.

Last year, Google was fined by the Indian Competition Commission around $166,000 (Rupees 10 million) for its delay in submitting details and information for the report.

The Indian watchdog first launched its probe after Indian matrimony website bharatmatrimony.com and the non profit Consumer Unit and Trust Society filed a complaint against Google for “alleged abuse of market power” in manipulating search results. For its report, the commission also gathered input from around 30 businesses including Facebook and leading Indian e-commerce players Flipkart and makemytrip.com.

“We're currently reviewing this report from the CCI's ongoing investigation,” said a Google spokesman in a statement. “We continue to work closely with the CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India's competition laws. Regulators and courts around the world, including in the U.S., Germany, Taiwan, Egypt and Brazil, have looked into and found no concerns on many of the issues raised in this report.”

Given that the India probe coincides with Google battling the European Commission's allegations, both cases will now be closely followed.

In the latest update on the European case, last week Google filed a response to the EU's statement of objections.

In a blog post, Google senior vp and legal counsel Kent Walker said that the company's response “shows why we believe those allegations are incorrect, and why we believe that Google increases choice for European consumers and offers valuable opportunities for businesses of all sizes.”

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