Google has been fined roughly $21 million by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for search engine bias; on most recent financial results, it would take Google around 90 minutes to work off the fine.
The investigation into Google initially began in 2012, following a complaint from dating website Matrimony.com and social justice group Consumer Unity & Trust Society. The investigation ruled that Google abused its dominant market position around the design of Search Engine Result Page, with the team favouring commercial relationships.
“The CCI in its order noted that the allegations against Google in respect of search results essentially centred around design of Search Engine Result Page (SERP),” the CCI said in a statement.
“Exhibiting a self-imposed regulatory forbearance from scrutinizing product designs in ascertaining anti-trust violations, CCI noted in its order that product design is an important and integral dimension of competition, undue intervention in designs of SERP can affect legitimate product improvements.
“CCI further observed in its order that Google, being the gateway to the internet for a vast majority of internet users due to its dominance in the online web search market, is under an obligation to discharge its special responsibility.”
This is of course not the first time Google has found itself on the wrong side of right when it comes to antitrust watchdogs. Back in June it was fined €2.42 billion by the European Commission for bias on its comparison shopping service, Android got put in the naughty corner by authorities in Turkey in March, while it has also been under investigation in South Korea. These are only a couple of examples; Google is no stranger to the courtroom.
While action from the regulatory authorities is a positive sign, the time it took to make this decision and the amount which Google is being fined are the issue.
Firstly, five years to come to a decision is way too long. During this time Google would most likely have carried on with (now found) dodgy activities, profiting considerably off them. Google is an incredibly profitable machine and would have made hundreds of millions, if not billions, across this period. If a business practise is wrong it needs to be identified and stopped quickly. Five years is abysmal.
Secondly, the fine; it is nowhere near high enough. As mentioned before, using a crude calculation based on the total revenues brought in over the last quarter ($32.323 billion) it would take Google approximately 90 minutes to pay off the fine. If authorities want to be taken seriously they need to impose fines which are taken seriously by the guilty. $21 million is nothing to Google and is hardly going to be considered a deterrent. Right now, the CCI is looking like a very toothless watchdog.