Indian regulator investigates Google over manipulation of search results

Prominent internet companies in India, such as Flipkart and MakeMyTrip, along with global giants Facebook, Microsoft and HERE have raised concerns over Google's manipulation of search results, alleging that the search engine was ranking its own properties as well as its ad partners above its rivals.

The findings of the probe — conducted over the course of three years — have been submitted to the Competition Commission of India, the country's competition regulator, as well as Google. While the results and comments made by the companies are not public, the Economic Times was able to obtain a copy of the inquiry, which involved comments from over 30 internet companies across varied categories.

In the inquiry, Flipkart mentioned that its search ranking has a "direct correlation" with the amount of money spent on advertising on Google, while MakeMyTrip said that the search engine was trying to "cross-sell its own products" by surfacing links leading to Google's flight and hotel booking services.

Meanwhile, Google responded to the publication, stating:

We're currently reviewing this report from the CCI's ongoing investigation. We continue to work closely with the CCI and remain confident that we comply fully with India's competition laws. Regulators and courts around the world, including in the US, Germany, Taiwan, Egypt and Brazil, have looked into and found no concerns on many of the issues raised in this report."

Google has until September 10 to respond to the concerns raised by the commission, following which the CCI will hold hearings to determine if the search giant broke antitrust laws in the country. If found guilty, Google will have to make changes to its business practices, with the possibility of incurring a fine of up to 10 percent from its Indian business. Google can also seek an extension on the deadline, giving the company more time to deliberate over its response.

This isn't the first time Google has faced anti-trust trails, with an anti-trust investigation by the FTC resulting in the company changing its policies on advertising and licensing of standards-essential patents. The EU is also conducting an investigation of its own over alleged rigging of search results, which could lead to a potential fine upwards of $6 billion.

Source: Economic Times

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is Android Central's Senior Editor of Asia. In his current role, he oversees the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, networking products, and AV gear. He has been testing phones for over a decade, and has extensive experience in mobile hardware and the global semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.