India Fines Google $21 Million for "Search Bias"

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In its ruling, India's competition watchdog said the internet giant has “abused its dominant position” that “enables it to operate independently of competitive forces.”

India’s anti-trust watchdog has slapped Google with a $21 million (1.36 billion rupees) fine, stating that the company “has abused its dominant position in the relevant market in India.”

Thursday's ruling follows a similar decision last year by the European Union, which issued a record $2.7 billion (€2.4 billion) fine against the internet giant, finding the company guilty of skewing search results by favoring its own shopping search service over competitors.'

Indian internet company and the nonprofit Consumer Unit and Trust Society filed a complaint against Google back in 2012 alleging “abuse of market power” via the manipulation of search results. This led to an investigation by anti-trust watchdog Competition Commission of India, which issued a report in 2015 accusing Google of taking advantage of its dominant market position by skewing internet search results in favor of its own businesses.

Concluding its probe, the CCI passed a detailed 190-page order stating that Google was being penalized for “infringing anti-trust conduct,” explaining that the company “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 order said that a key complaint against Google was that it favored its own partner sites and services that would appear prominently on the search results page “irrespective of whether they are the most popular or relevant sites to the search.” For example, the CCI found that Google had deliberately directed flight-related queries towards Google Flights instead of competing sites.

The $21 million fine translates to five percent of Google’s average total revenue generated from its India operations covering its various business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015. Google will need to deposit the fine within 60 days.

“We have always focused on innovating to support the evolving needs of our users,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement to THR, adding, “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.”