Google being investigated by India's antitrust agency

A consumer watchdog wants India to investigate the company because of its dominant role in online search in India

Competition Commission of India, the country's antitrust agency, has launched a probe against Google for alleged anti-competitive practices following a complaint by a consumer watchdog group, a federal minister told Parliament on Monday, according to the country's Press Information Bureau.

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International approached the CCI, which has quasi-legal authority, to investigate into the potential misuse by Google of its dominant position in online search and search-related advertising markets, following the company's investigation by the European Commission and antitrust agencies in other jurisdictions, Udai Singh Mehta, associate director at CUTS said on Tuesday.

The watchdog group had submitted to the CCI what it called a "preliminary information report" on the issue in August last year. If agencies like the European Commission saw merit in investigating Google, there is a possibility that there is a misuse in India where Google is also dominant, Mehta said.

Google is being investigated under section 4 of the country's Competition Act which relates to the prohibition of abuse of a dominant position, R.P.N. Singh, minister of state for corporate affairs, told Parliament.

BharatMatrimony.com, an online matrimonial services portal in India run by Consim Info, filed earlier this year a complaint against Google before the CCI, alleging discriminatory practices relating to its AdWords program, according to sources.

The move by CUTS before the CCI is not on behalf of any company, though it may have been helped by BharatMatrimony's action, Mehta said.

Google said in a statement that it was extending its full cooperation to the CCI, and is confident that its products are compliant with competition law in India. "Though competition is always a click away - we understand that with success comes scrutiny," the company said.

Google and its Indian operation are the top two sites in India, according to web information company, Alexa. The one-month rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews over the past month.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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