Google India is being investigated by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) after the agency received complaints of abusing its dominance in the search business and rigging search results. If found guilty, Google could face a fine of up to 10 percent of its income; the company posted a net income of more than $14 billion on revenue of $66 billion in 2014.
The CCI director general filed a report last week based on concerns raised by Bharat Matrimony and Consumer Unity and Trust Society, a Jaipur-based local nonprofit organization.
Moreover, as part of its probe, 30 companies including Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Facebook, MapMyIndia, Hungama Digital and Nokia Here had submitted their responses to the CCI. This marks the first case globally where an antitrust body is formally raising such charges against Google.
According to ZDNet, “The allegations are similar to other accusations of illegal self-promotion in the US, Europe and other parts of the world. The search giant has until September 10 to respond to the preliminary findings in India, although that deadline could be extended.”
The CCI’s report accuses Google of displaying its own content and services more prominently in search results than other sources that have higher hit rates. This means, for example, even though finance potal Moneycontrol.com may have a higher hit rate for a stock market search in India, Google Finance links are given priority. Similarly, Google Hotels gets preference over other travel portals like Makemytrip that may have higher traffic and therefore more appropriate as first results of a search.
E-Commerce portal Flipkart noted that it found search results to have a direct correlation with the amount of money it spent on advertising with Google through Google’s Adwords program.
Google needs to file its response to CCI by September 10, and a week later present before the seven-member commission headed by chairman Ashok Chawla. The proceeding can go on for several hearings before the commission makes a decision, which can be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Adding to the story, a few days ago, Deepinder Goyal, Founder and CEO, Zomato tweeted out and said that Google is ambushing Zomato’s search results. Below is his tweet :-
— Deepinder Goyal (@deepigoyal) August 27, 2015
Notably, Google in India was fined $166,000 by the CCI last March for failing to cooperate in an antitrust investigation.
Apart in India, Google has been similarly accused by the European Union as well for oppressing competition by altering search results. The European Commission had extended the deadline for replying to the charges to Aug. 31 from July 17, a Google spokesman said. This was the second extension for the company, which had originally been told to respond to the Commission’s charge sheet, or statement of objections, by July 7.
In India, CCI will deliberate on the matter before pronouncing a verdict in favour or against Google. If the Indian body beats the EU to it, experts said the outcome here could affect the one in Europe.