Google Inc may see its European woes re-run in India after Facebook Inc accused it of abusing its dominant position to rig search results. The preliminary findings of a three year long probe have been forwarded to the Competition Commission of India. Investigators there have accused Google of stifling rivals in the country.
Google Liable on Two Counts
The regulator’s findings hold Google Inc liable on two counts. The first relates to Google’s proprietary content showing up higher on search results. This means, for example, Google Hotels supersede other travel portals that may draw higher traffic and are therefore entitled to show up higher.
The second allegation revolves around Google’s sponsored links. Investigators say that the visibility of these sponsored links are dependent on the amount of advertising paid. They have also found instances of such links sometimes superseding the link of the actual trademark that is being searched.
Google Inc has until September 10 to file its response. The tech giant will also have to be present before a seven-member committee a week later. The regulators’s proceedings can last for several hearings before a final decision is announced. That verdict can further be challenged in the Supreme Court of India.
If found guilty, Google will have to make changes in the way its search engine operates. The anti-trust body can also impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Google’s income. They can even pursue cases against top executives.
Google India is confident that it will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“We’re currently reviewing this report from the CCI’s ongoing investigation. We continue to work closely with the CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India’s competition laws,” a spokesman said
Google’s Brush with Anti-Trust Regulators
The allegations in India are similar to the ones Google faced in the U.S. and Europe.
Google Inc successfully navigated the issue in the U.S. It made some voluntary commitments of change to the Fair Trade Commission. But Europe is proving to be much trickier. Regulators there are still examining whether the firm manipulated search results. Google is accused of re-directing traffic away from sites that have the potential to decrease its advertising sales. The firm has denied those allegations. If it is found guilty in Europe, it could stare at a multi-billion Euro fine.
Today was the first instance of an antitrust body formally raising such charges against Google Inc . The Indian regulator might pronounce a verdict in the Google case before the EU does. Analysts say such an outcome could have a bearing on the case in Europe.