News & Media

CCI imposes Rs 136 Crore fine on Google for unfair business practices in India

Apr 21, 2019
  • Author(s) : Ravisekhar Nair
  • The Competition Commission of India on Thursday 8th February has passed orders imposing a fine of Rs 136 Crores on Google Inc. for unfair business practices in the local market for online search. The CCI ruled that Google was directing users searching for flights to its own commercial flight search page, putting competing businesses at a disadvantage.

    A complaint had been filed in 2012 by Indian matchmaking website, Bharat Matrimony, and Consumer Unity and Trust Society, a consumer protection group against Google alleging that Google indulged in abuse of its dominant position in online search through practices leading to search bias and search manipulation, among others thereby causing harm to advertisers and consumers.

    Matrimony.com was represented by a team from Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas led by Partner Naval Chopra, along with Principal Associate Yaman Verma, Senior Associate Aman Singh Sethi, and Associate Sapan Parekh. The team briefed Rajshekhar Rao, who led arguments for the Informant.

    Whereas Google LLC, Google India Private Limited and Google Ireland Limited – were represented by Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Arvind Nigam and Arun Kathpalia. They were briefed by team from AZB & Partners led by Partner Samir Gandhi, Senior Associate Kamya Rajagopal and Associates Kadambari Chinoy, Krithika Ramesh, Anuja Agrawal and Aakarsh Narula. A team from Economic Laws Practices led by Managing Partner Suhail Nathani along with Partner Ravisekhar Nair and Senior Associate Arjun Khera also briefed the seniors.

    It was averred that in order to promote Google’s own vertical search sites, Google had started mixing many of its vertical results into its organic search results. Therefore, when a user searched, for example, the name of a song on Google, he received links to videos of that song from Google Video or YouTube, both of which are properties owned by Google.

    Further it was pointed out that Google’s own sites would appear prominently on the search results page irrespective of whether they were the most popular or relevant sites to the search and Google would not place results from any other vertical search sites as prominently as Google’s own vertical search sites in its list of results.

    Thus the petitioner claimed that Google had abused its dominant position in the relevant market in India thereby contravening the provisions of Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002. Allegations were also made about the abusive conduct of Google in the market for online search advertising through imposition of unfair and discriminatory conditions on its customers etc.

    However it was submitted on behalf of Google that regardless of market definition, Google was not dominant in advertising as well. It was argued that the Investigation Report ignored the competitive pressure Google faced when seeking to attract advertising revenue, erroneously dismissed the constraint from user multihoming, and overstates barriers to entry.

    The Commission included in its Coram the following members: Devender Kumar Sikri-Chairperson, S. L. Bunker, Sudhir Mital, Augustine Peter, U.C. Nahta and Justice G. P. Mittal.

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