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".
The Mountain View tech giant recently had a run-in with the European Commission over alleged shopping search results manipulation, and now faces a fine from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for giving its commercial flight search function preferential treatment in Google Search.
According to the complaints, Google manipulated search results to promote its own and partner services. Google is no stranger to being pulled up for anti-competition practices. "This order is significant as the CCI recognises that Google is the gatekeeper to the internet and has a special responsibility to ensure a level playing field".
Friday's ruling follows a similar decision a year ago 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'.
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While the majority order is by CCI chairperson D K Sikri and three members, two members have issued a dissenting order saying that they don't find Google in violation of Section 4 of the Competition Act, which pertains to abuse of dominant position. Its final order is in line with the order of the European Commission but of course in Europe, Google was fined United States dollars 2.9 billion. The complaint was filed in 2012, and after a thorough investigation, the CCI imposed the fine on Google, hold it guilty of abusing its dominant position in the search engine market. Its effort to evolve along with the growing needs of the users is commendable, however, it is to be seen that the giant does not stifle the growing entrepreneurs.
Google has been given time of 60 days to deposit the fine.
"Google was found to be indulging in practices of search bias and by doing so, it causes harm to its competitors as well as to users", the CCI said in a 190-page order.
A Google spokesperson said in a statement that the regulator found that the company's conduct on a majority of issues examined were in compliance with Indian laws.