Google fined by India's antitrust commission over 'search bias'

The Competition Commission of India (via Reuters) fined Google 1.36 billion rupees ($21.17 million). According to the press release, the order was passed after investigations were carried out in response to complaints filed by Matrimony.com Limited and Consumer Utility & Trust Society (CUTS) in 2012. The two companies had alleged that Google runs its core business of search and advertising in a discriminatory manner, causing harm to advertisers and indirectly to the consumers. However, the CCI said it did not find any contravention related to Google's specialized search design dubbed AdWords and online distribution agreements.

The CCI says that Google, through the design of its search engines, has not only placed its own commercial flight unit at a prominent position, it has also allocated disproportionate online space to these services leading to a disadvantage towards other veritcales who're trying to gain market access. But the nature of search engines (and online services in general) could be the culprit: Google's algorithm ranks websites and services by relevance, generally speaking.

The Indian competition regulator has given 60 days to Google to deposit the fine.

December 2015: Google's ambitious Project Loon for providing seamless internet even in remote areas was initially appreciated by the Indian government.

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The EC's antitrust watchdog objected to it systematically privileging its own shopping product in search results and also found that it had been demoting rival vertical search services in its general search results.

Friday's ruling follows a similar decision previous 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'.

In line with the development, a Google spokesperson said in a media statement, "We have always focused on innovating to support the evolving needs of our users".

"The CCI has confirmed that, on the majority of issues it examined, our product complies with Indian competition laws", the spokesperson said.

  • Darren Santiago