New Delhi -- Regulators in Europe and the U.S., have been constantly haunting Google, but now the search engine heavy-weight has another country to worry about in its fight against antitrust complaints. The competition watchdog of India, (CCI) has asked its investigation wing to probe the alleged discriminatory practices by global search engine Google relating to its online advertising business, namely AdWords, sources said.
As Google faces another antitrust investigation, which corresponds with similar antitrust investigation in Argentina started in 2010, to determine if Google holds a dominant position in web search and ad markets that could have an adverse effect on competition.
But in India, it is reported that AdWords will be the initial point of assessment, government officials informed the WSJ. However, according to the investigation agency, there is a chance that it could expand its case to encompass other aspects of Google's business.
As a matter of fact, this investigation is intended to determine whether there is any merit to the complaint against Google. The official further added, 'the escalating number of competition law complaints against Google globally suggests a pattern of anti-competitive conduct that needs to be checked in order to protect Indian businesses and consumers'.
When contacted a Google spokesperson said: “Though competition is always a click away, we understand that with success comes scrutiny. We have not received any communication from the CCI, but we are always happy to respond to questions about our business, and we are positively sure that our products are compliant with competition law in India.”
As has been the case in other markets, Google is constantly slammed with condemnation by rivals unhappy with its prominence. In India, Consim Info. Pvt. Ltd. back in February, lodged a complaint against Google alleging that the multinational corporation has mis-used its dominance by engaging in discriminatory and retaliatory practices relating to AdWords. However, one of the unnamed officials claims the investigation has not been prompted by any one specific complaint.
As yet, Google did not responded to the accusations concerning BharatMatrimony, which is owned by a web portal called Consim. A spokesperson for the matrimonial service states, “BharatMatrimony requests that the Commission investigate Google's practices and impose remedial measures to protect competition.”
Amazingly, what Google likely want to avoid is the sort of large-scale inquiry currently underway in Europe and the US. Late last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission indicated its seriousness about taking action against Google. The agency hired an experienced antitrust litigator to helm its own antitrust investigation into Google's search advertising business, a possibility that Google has been lobbying to avoid for the past three years.
Besides, regulators in Europe have been engaged in their own fact finding about Google's ad business, following complaints from Google's competitors in Europe. Last week, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia informed Reuters that the Commission was in no hurry to decide whether to pursue formal charges and that it is very serious about the case.
In fact, both the European Commission and the FTC have each been digging through Google's actions in search, social and privacy management.
Google's AdWords program, in which the company sells keywords to prospective advertisers and displays them in the form of short ads online that makes up about 96% of its profits, is a big money spinner for the company.
Recently, India's Economic Times suggests the inquiry is linked to litigation in the country to make Google, Yahoo, and other social networking sites take more responsibility for objectionable content. However, it might take years for any sort of actual trial to take place on the matter in India, if the CCI decides to proceed.