On February 8, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined Google $1.36 billion rupees (roughly $21.1 million) for “abuse of its dominant position” in search. The specific finding made by CCI surrounded Google’s treatment of flight search results. The decision was 4 to 2 against Google.
According to CCI, Google “allocated disproportionate real estate” to the box of sponsored flight results at the top of the page. The Committee felt that it disadvantaged “verticals trying to gain market access”:
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. CCI noted in its order that Google through its search design has not only placed its commercial flight unit at a prominent position on SERP, it has also allocated disproportionate real estate thereof to such units to the disadvantage of verticals trying to gain market access. Besides, it was also found that Google has provided a further link in such commercial units which leads users to its specialised search result page (Google Flight) resulting into unfair imposition upon the users of general search services as well.
The penalty, which is a culmination of a long process of review, was originally triggered all the way back in 2012 by a complaint from Matrimony.com and public interest for advocate Consume Unity & Trust Society.
According to CCI (press release), the OneBox itself wasn’t found to violate India’s competition rules. There are other search and related issues that were considered by CCI, including AdWords practices and distribution agreements. They also weren’t found to be in contravention of Indian law.
What the fine is based on is 5 percent of Google India revenues between the years of 2013 and 2015. By comparison, European antitrust rules now permit regulators to impose fines based on a percentage of global revenues.
The complete (and lengthy) CCI decision is available here (.pdf).