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10 February 2018, 02:54 | Cedric Leonard
India's anti-trust watchdog February 8 fined US-based search giant Google (pdf) $1.36 billion rupee ($21 million), or about 5% of the average total revenue from its India operations, for "search bias".
Interestingly, the penalty amount of Rs. 135.86 is around 5 percent of the total revenue of the company's revenue from India for the FY 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The CCI found Google abusing its dominance in three ways - first, placement of "Universal Results" before 2010 were pre-determined by Google and not based on relevance, which was unfair to the users.
It was alleged that Google is indulging in abuse of dominant position in the market for online search through practices leading to search bias and search manipulation, among others.
Google, which has the right to appeal the order, said it was reviewing the CCI's concerns, its spokesperson told the Economic Times daily.
The investigation into Google initially began in 2012, following a complaint from dating website Matrimony.com and social justice group Consumer Unity & Trust Society. A partner at the law firm that represented Bharat Matrimony in the case, Naval Chopra, questioned the size of the fine imposed on Google. The commission singled out Google's Flight service, stating that it reserved prominent space on its search results page for its own service, and even led users to a specialised search results page dedicated to the Google Flight service.
However, the CCI said they did not find anything wrong in terms of Google's specialized search design, AdWords, and online distribution agreements. "And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation", Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy had then said.
The blow is the latest amid a string of regulatory problems the company has been dealt with, including a record $2.7 billion penalty the European Commission imposed on it last June for prioritising its own shopping services in its search results over competitors'.
Rival business were disadvantaged by that "search bias", the regulator said.
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