India has joined the growing list of countries that apparently have a gripe against Google’s business practices.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country’s antitrust authority, has sent Google a report charging the company with abusing its dominant market position to rank its own services ahead of those from others in search results.
An article earlier this week in India’s Economic Times said the report is based on the CCI’s investigation of complaints filed by some 30 businesses, including Flipkart, MakeMyTrip.com, Nokia’s maps division and several other companies over the last few years.
According to the Economic Times, which claims to have seen the Commission’s report, Google is charged with displaying its own content more prominently in search results. It is also accused of giving prominence to sponsored links in search results based on the ad dollars it gets from clients.
For example, even though a local Website might have a higher number of hits for a stock market-related search in India, Google gives prominence to its own Google Finance, the Times quoted the report as saying.
A Google spokeswoman said the company is currently reviewing the report from the Competition Commission’s ongoing investigation. “We continue to work closely with the CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India’s competition laws.”
The report against Google, from the investigative arm of the CCI, is the result of a three-year examination of the company’s practices. It is still preliminary in nature and will likely be followed by multiple rounds of hearings and appeals.
The CCI has already fined Google the equivalent of some $160,000 for dragging its feet in response to a previous request for information and documents pertaining to the ongoing investigation. It is unclear how quickly or even whether Google will respond to the most recent complaints.
For Google, complaints like the one aired in India this week have become increasingly common. In the European Union, antitrust authorities are currently investigating the company on charges similar to the ones raised in India. The company could face billions of dollars in fines if authorities decide it violated EU anti-competition laws. Google has rejected the EU’s claims and has maintained that its search engine technology has helped the competition rather than hurt it.
In Russia, search engine firm Yandex has accused Google of locking Android device makers to its Google Play application store and forcing them to make Google the default search engine. In Portugal, a mobile application store vendor has sued Google for making it hard for users to download applications from outside Google Play.
In addition to antitrust-related problems, Google also is dealing with a slew of privacy issues in Europe and elsewhere. In Europe, data protection authorities want Google to implement the EU’s “right-to be-forgotten” mandate globally. The mandate gives EU residents the right to ask Google to remove links in search engine results about them that are inaccurate, defamatory or outdated. Google has agreed to implement the requirement for search results that show up within the EU but has refused to do so with results that appear in its main Google.com search site.