India has become the latest country to fine Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Google for abusing its status as the world’s most popular search engine.
On Thursday, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) ruled that Google used its dominance in online web search and internet advertising markets unfairly to further its own financial gain. In one example, the CCI found that the tech giant deliberately placed its commercial flight search function above competitor websites in order to pocket commission payments.
India’s antitrust watchdog responded to its investigation by ordering Google to pay a 1.36 billion rupees ($21 million) 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. "Google was leveraging its dominance in the market for online general web search, to strengthen its position in the market for online syndicate search services.”
Google said it now plans to review the "narrow concerns" identified by the CCI. “The Competition Commission of India has confirmed that, on the majority of issues it examined, our conduct complies with Indian competition laws,” a spokesperson at the Mountain View, California-based company said: “We are reviewing the narrow concerns identified by the Commission and will assess our next steps.”
The CCI fine size was calculated as 5 percent of the average total revenues that Google generated over three years from its Indian operations. The tech giant has been ordered to pay the penalty within 60 days. (See also: Could An Antitrust Investigation Destroy Google?)
India’s antitrust watchdog started investigating Google back in 2012 after receiving complaints from matchmaking website Bharat Matrimony and a not-for-profit campaign group, Consumer Unity and Trust Society. A partner at the law firm that represented Bharat Matrimony in the case, Naval Chopra, questioned the size of the fine imposed on Google.
"Whilst finding Google to have abused its dominant position, the CCI has nonetheless exercised restraint in recognizing the dynamic nature of online markets and not found Google guilty of every allegation," Chopra told Reuters.
The CCI’s order represents the latest antitrust setback for Google. Last year, the tech giant was hit with a record 2.4 billion euro ($3 billion) fine from the European Commission after it was found guilty of giving “an illegal advantage” to its comparison shopping service. Google has appealed against the fine. (See also: Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion EU Antitrust Fine.)