Search major accused of driving users to ancillary services owned or operated by it

The Competition Commission of India is understood to have launched a fresh probe against Google following a complaint by consumer advocacy group CUTS International.

CUTS had approached the Commission on June 8 to look into the alleged anti-competitive practices adopted by Google. It had alleged that Google was abusing its dominant position by imposing unfair and discriminatory conditions in various ways. Among the major allegations was creating a search bias which drives its customers to view only such ancillary services as owned and operated by Google.

It also alleged that the Google was manipulating searches by tweaking with the algorithmic as well as paid search results by penalising certain Web sites and advertisers. Also, CUTS said Google also denied access to content to other search engines to ancillary sites and services operated by it.

Mr Sharad Bhansali, Managing Partner, APJ-SLG Law Offices, who is representing CUTS, said, “Initiation of an enquiry by the CCI is an important and essential condition for further investigation in the case. The Commission is at liberty to call for further information even before ordering an enquiry. However, in this case they found the information sufficiently detailed and comprehensive to order the full enquiry. The investigation will now be done by DG”.

Global outrage

The complaint against Google follows global actions against it for its abusive practices.

The CCI is already investigating another complaint against Google by Bharat Matrimony.com about discriminatory practices related to Bharat Matrimony’s AdWords programme.

The search engine has been facing music from international regulators on similar counts. The European Commission Competition Commissioner, Mr Joaquim Almunia, in May, had said that their probe had identified four areas of significant concerns, notably: ‘preferential treatment’ in the hierarchical presentation of results; doubts over respect of intellectual property rights; restrictions written into advertising contracts, and the ‘portability’ of advertising across different internet platforms.

bindu.menon@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 9, 2012)
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