Google fined $21m in India over competition abuse

Google has been fined more than $21 million in India for “search bias” and abuse of its dominant position, competition regulators said Thursday.

The Competition Commission of India found that Google had deliberately steered flight-related queries towards its own specialised flight search page rather than to competing websites, pocketing additional commission payments as a result.

It also ruled that Google had acted unfairly with regard to companies that incorporate its search engine in their own websites, by restricting their usage of competing services.

 The ruling late on Thursday came eight months after Google was fined €2.42bn by the European Commission for giving “an illegal advantage” to its comparison shopping service

“(The Commission) finds it appropriate to impose a penalty on Google at the rate of 5% of their average total revenue generated from India operations from different business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015.”

The order said the company had 60 days to pay the fine for “for infringing anti-trust conduct”.

In response to Thursday’s CCI order, Google said: “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.” The complaint against Google was originally brought by Matrimony.com, an online matchmaking site, and the Consumer Unity & Trust Society, a pressure group.

The former had accused Google of abusing its position to maximise revenue, by allowing rival matchmaking sites to use its trademarked terms as key words for their advertising — a submission rejected by the CCI, which said that Google’s approach enabled better search results for users.

“The CCI has . . . exercised restraint recognising the dynamic nature of online markets,” Naval Chopra, a partner at law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, who represented Matrimony.com, said in an emailed statement. But the move was hailed as a landmark decision by some in the Indian technology industry.

“Sending billions of tax free $ out of India and blocking Indian startups to build solutions for India. That’s Google for you!” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of Paytm, India’s leading financial technology start-up, wrote on Twitter. “Competition Commission gives a great judgement.”

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