CCI issues order against Google for search bias, imposes penalty
Matrimony.com Limited & Others Vs Google Inc. & others.
CCI FINES GOOGLE :In February 2018 – CCI found that Google had abused the dominant position and fined Rs 135.86 crore.
FACTS : Bharat Matrimony, now known as matrimony.com, and Consumer Unity & Trust Society had complained to the competition regulator about Google’s anti-competitive behaviour.
HOW? As per the complainants, Google abused its dominant position by: 1. Favouring its own services and of its partners by manually manipulating its search results. 2. Manipulates the search algorithm to suppress results of competition and unfairly promoting its own services like Google News, YouTube, Google Maps etc.
BASICS WHAT IS DOMINANT POSITION? Explanation (a) to Section 4 of the Competition Act, ‘dominant position’ means a position of strength enjoyed by an enterprise in the relevant marketin India which enables it
• to operate independently of competitive forces prevailing in the relevant market; or • to affect its competitors or consumers or the relevant market in its favour. Further, to analyse dominance, the factors enumerated in Section 19(4) of the Act are to be considered, namely, • market share of the enterprise; • size and resources of the enterprise; size and importance of the competitors; • economic power of the enterprise including commercial advantages over competitors; etc….
UPSC MAINS LAW OPTIONAL COURSE 2018 STARTS ON 12TH FEB 2018 : CLICK HERE PRELIMINARY REPORT : The Competition Commission had come to a preliminary conclusion that Google was promoting its own services in generic search results in a report in 2015.
CCI HELD : “In the present case, since Google is the gateway to the internet for a vast majority of internet users, due to its dominance in the online web search market, it is under an obligation to discharge its special responsibility. As Google has the ability and the incentive to abuse its dominant position, its “special responsibility” is critical in ensuring not only the fairness of the online web search and search advertising markets, but also the fairness of all online markets given that these are primarily accessed through search engines”
• In this backdrop, CCI found prominent display of Commercial Flight Unit by Google on Search Engine Result Page (SERP) with link to Google’s specialised search options/ services (Flight) in contravention of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Act. • The final order was passed by a majority of 4-2 with two Members issuing a Dissenting Note.
CONCLUSION : ACROSS JURISDICTIONS : In June 2017 – EU’s competition authority slapped a fine of $2.7 billion on Google, after an investigation that lasted seven years, which found that Google abused its market dominance in search by privileging its own service providers over unrelated rivals and, thereby, restricted genuine choice for consumers.
REAL PROBLEM : Investigation for abuse of dominant position takes a very long time, which ultimately destroys the victims of abuse of market dominance, , without recourse.
HOW CAN WE ACT SWIFTLY?
1ST STEP : CCI should commence suomotu action, whenever MNCs are are found guilty of misconduct in jurisdictions abroad, or are being investigated for possible threats to fair market conduct.
2ND STEP : CCI should set up a special bench for the purpose and beef up its investigation team to find out the truth i.e., whether they are wrongly targeted or not.
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