Today is not a good day for Google. Globally, it’s being sued for the 2016 Pixel’s microphone problems and in India, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) (opens in new tab) has imposed a fine of Rs 136 crores on the company for infringing ‘anti-trust conduct’.
A probe was issued to explore the problem back in 2012 after multiple complaints (opens in new tab) by services such as Bharat Matrimony and a non-profit called Consumer Unity and Trust Society. It was speculated that Google was abusing its dominant position in the market with respect to online searches by indulging in search manipulation and search bias among other things.
These actions were causing harm, not only to its competitors, but to the millions of users that use the search engine as well.
For instance, Google Flights would be the primary search result if you were looking for air travel options, though they may not necessarily be the most popular.
Google’s statement cites the CCI’s concerns as 'narrow', stating that - "The CCI has confirmed that, on the majority of the issues that it examined, our conduct complies with Indian competition laws."
So why the fine?
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.
Simply put, it was done in bad taste. It violates the basic competitive nature of a capitalistic market.
On top of the fine, which, by the way, is just 5% of the average annual revenue that’s generated by Google’s Indian operations, the CCI has directed Google not to enforce any of the restrictive clauses that it may have with its Indian partners, effective immediately.
Specifically, with reference to Google Flights, the company now has to present a disclaimer that clearly indicates that the ‘Search Flights’ link at the bottom will lead to a Google Flights page so that users aren’t being misled.
All in all, this isn’t the first time that Google has been accused of 'anti-trust' practices but this is only the second time that it has lead to a penalty. The decision shows the turning tides of the online market with the CCI establishing itself as a trend setter.
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