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Google facing up to $5 billion fine from India anti-trust regulators

updated 11:17 am EDT, Tue March 11, 2014

Indian Competition Commission investigating Google's search behaviors

Adding to Google's antitrust woes worldwide, the company is facing an investigation by India's Competition Commission (CCI) in which it may be found liable for up to $5 billion in fines. The investigation, already underway for three years, is similar to that in other countries in claiming that the search engine giant is abusing its industry-leading position and inserting Google services over those of competitors illicitly.

The complaint in India was filed in 2011 by south Pacific-based consumer advocacy group Consumer Unity & Trust Society International, as well as Indian matchmaking website matrimony.com. Under Indian law, companies found violating antitrust regulations may be forced to disgorge up to 10 percent of its three-year annual revenue average. There is no avenue for settlement in India, as the search engine was able to reach in the US and EU.

A Google spokesperson recently commented on the matter in India by saying that the company is "extending full co-operation to the Competition Commission of India in their investigation." The company noted that "we're pleased that the conclusion of the Federal Trade Commission's two-year review was that Google's services are good for users and good for competition" referring to the recent roundly-criticized US deal with Google.

In the European Union, the tentative agreement between the search company and the European Commission regulatory agency will see Google display the search results from competing services, among other proposals for promoting other companies, in order to put that three-year antitrust investigation to an end.

The US Federal Trade Commission and Google agreed to allow online advertisers greater flexibility in exporting Google AdWord data to campaigns on rival platforms. In addition, Google agreed to refrain from "misappropriating online content from so-called 'vertical' websites focused on specific categories" and using that content in its own services. Neither the European Commission, nor the FTC levied any fines in either case.

Matrimony.com's counsel Ferida Satarwala believes that its international business isn't subject to the European Commission's settlement regarding Google's unfair use of trademarks, saying as well that its retaliatory conduct "is not specifically addressed in the European settlement and are distinct theories of harm being pursued by the CCI. Therefore, this settlement is unlikely to address CCI's concerns in our case."

The CCI has already found preliminary evidence of violations by Google. The investigation has been turned over to the Director General, who has already collected comments from those affected by Google's practices, and is likely to submit its report back to the CCI shortly. The CCI can assess the fine, pass other corrective measures addressing the company's conduct, or order a breakup of monopolistic entities into separate businesses in the country.



By Electronista Staff
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