Google abused market dominance in some instances: CCI arm

Economic Times, July 22, 2015

The investigation arm of the CCI has recorded a finding that Google has abused its market dominance in some instances, which if confirmed, could lead to lengthy regulatory battles.

The investigation arm of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has recorded a finding that Google has abused its market dominance in some instances, which if confirmed by the watchdog, could lead to lengthy regulatory battles mirroring the experience of advanced economies.

The commission is sending the finding to the company for its comments before announcing a final decision, which could involve a monetary penalty among other possible actions, if the investigation unit’s conclusions are eventually upheld. “The investigations have found Google guilty in one of the cases,” said a senior government official familiar with the matter. “The commission is sharing the findings of the investigation with the company,” the official added.

A Google spokesman said the company did not comment on what he described as speculation. “We don’t comment on rumours and speculation. We’re confident that we comply fully with India’s competition laws, and we continue to work closely with CCI in this ongoing investigation,” the spokesman said.

The Competition Commission had ordered a probe into four allegations of abuse of market dominance against Google.

The probe arm of CCI, under director-general (investigation), probed these four cases after the commission found enough evidence to launch an inquiry. Consim Info Pvt Ltd and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) had filed cases against Google Inc and Google India Pvt Ltd. Consim owns the matrimony portal The other two cases have been filed by an individual, Vishal Gupta, and Albion InfoTel Ltd. These have been filed against Google Inc, Google Ireland Ltd and Google India. Another official familiar with the investigations said the adverse findings against the company were recorded in the case filed by Consim Info Pvt Ltd and CUTS. The complaints were clubbed together by DG-investigation. Bharat Matrimony had moved CCI in early 2012 citing what it alleged were discriminatory and retaliatory trade practices related to Google’s AdWords programme.

AdWords is a big source of revenue for Google, involving the sale of keywords to advertisers.

In a separate case, CUTS had alleged Google was abusing its dominant position by practices “like search bias, search manipulation, denial of access and creation of entry barriers for competing search engines”.

The case will go forward after the company files its response to the findings. CCI will then hear both parties Google and DG-investigation and then give a ruling.

“DG-investigation’s report is not the final stage. It is just one step in the process. The commission can accept or reject the findings irrespective of its conclusions. Of course, the parties remain to be heard as part of the process,” said Suhail Nathani, partner, Economic Laws Practice.

Under the anti-trust law, CCI can impose a penalty of not more than 10% of the turnover of the enterprise. The commission can pass a cease and desist order and can,recommend that the entity be split. to the Centre that a dominant enterprise should be split up.

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