India A Second Front In Google’s Antitrust Battles With Foreign Regulators

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While Google’s antitrust investigation in Europe has received considerable attention, a similar ongoing investigation in India has received far less coverage. However, an article appearing in India-based Economic Times suggests a legal environment in the country that is no less challenging for Mountain View.

The article asserts, “Flipkart, Facebook, Nokia’s maps division, MakeMy-Trip.com and several other companies have corroborated complaints that US Internet giant Google abused its dominant market position, in their response to queries raised by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).”

The Indian antitrust investigation began in early 2014 and has two areas of focus: whether Google abused its position in promoting vertical results (similar to the case in Europe) and unfair competition in the administration of AdWords.

The CCI recently issued a report (which I have not had an opportunity to review) that apparently argues Google did in fact violate Indian competition law. According to the Economic Times article, Google needs to formally respond by September 10 and appear in person before the commission.

The CCI was established by the Indian Parliamentary Competition Act of 2002. The law seeks to protect competition in the Indian market by prohibiting anti-competitive mergers, abuse of dominant market position and anti-competitive contracts.

Google apparently cannot settle alleged antitrust claims as it can or could have in Europe and as it did in the US. The CCI is supposed to either find a violation or exonerate the company or companies in question. If Google is found in violation of Indian competition law, CCI could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of Google’s income — in other words, billions of dollars.

The CCI can also seek “structural remedies” that include breaking up anti-competitive enterprises. However, as a practical matter, that’s not going to happen in this case.

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