updated 04:19 pm EDT, Tue May 13, 2014
Google Helpouts and illegal ad-blocking being investigated
The Competition Commission of India has launched a new probe against Google's business practices. A chain of remote technology support firms launched the complaint, alleging that the company illicitly blocked advertising it paid for on the service, and has a "vague and unclear" user safety policy leading to "abuse of dominance by Google."
Mr. Gupta, the owner of the support stores, claims to have paid $310,000 for advertising on Google search results. He believes that Google Helpouts is a competitor to his service, and alleges that Google blocked his ads under the terms of the user safety policy so the Google service could get more customers.
The Commission said a probe was mandated in order to "determine the nature and extent of problems that have prompted Google to take action" against Gupta's company in blocking his ads. "Google's practices prima facie stem, to a large degree, from its undisputable dominance in the online search market. Therefore, Google's practices towards AdWords customers such as the (remote technology support) firms in this case, need to be investigated."
Google is facing another CCI action, with the first being over ad placement and Google self-promotion. 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.
Under Indian law, companies found violating antitrust regulations may be forced to disgorge up to 10 percent of their three-year annual revenue average. There is no avenue for settlement with the CCI in India, as the search engine was able to reach in other countries for similar charges in both investigations.
Google is offering full cooperation to the India authorities for both investigations. "We're always happy to answer questions about our business, and we're confident that our products are compliant with competition law in India," the search engine giant said in a statement.