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Is Google Rigging The Search Results For Paid Advertisement?

The search engine giant, Google is in news again, though not for the right reasons this time. After receiving complaints from Consumer Unity and Trust Society – a local non-profit organization, and Bharat Matrimony – an Indian Matrimonial Website, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) suspects Google of rigging search results.

The Economic Times recently informed that the CCI has received quite a few complaints about Google misusing its dominant market position and rigging search results. Flipkart, Facebook, Nokia’s maps division, MakeMyTrip, Hungama Digital, and GroupM are few of the companies who have purportedly validated the competition regulator’s concerns with Google.

Not taking Google at its face value, the CCI report accuses the search engine of placing its own websites and content above others, even when the other sources have better and relevant traffic flow. Allegedly, Google places sponsored links over those links which are more pertinent to the search queries.

In April this year, the company faced similar charges when the European Commission alleged that the company is “abusing its dominant position in the Internet search market”.

Last month, the search engine responded and disproved the claims put forth by the EU.

Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel, stated on the company’s official blog“We use traffic analysis to rebut claims that our ad displays and specialized organic results harmed competition by preventing shopping aggregators from reaching consumers. Economic data spanning more than a decade, an array of documents, and statements from complainants all confirm that product search is robustly competitive. And we show why the SO is incorrect in failing to consider the impact of major shopping services like Amazon and eBay, who are the largest players in this space.”

He further clarified, “We don’t think this format is anti-competitive. On the contrary, showing ads based on structured data provided by merchants demonstrably improves ad quality and makes it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for. We show these ad groups where we’ve always shown ads — to the right and at the top of organic results — and we use specialized algorithms to maximize their relevance for users. Data from users and advertisers confirms they like these formats. That’s not “favoring” — that’s giving our customers and advertisers what they find most useful.”

However, when it comes to CCI and Google’s tiff, it seems like there’s nothing new under the sun. In March last year, the CCI imposed Google a fine of whopping $166,000 for not cooperating with the watchdog in its anti-trust probe.

For the moment, Google denies the charges of rigging or ambushing search results, and says that it’s going through the report filed by the CCI.

A Google’s representative recently stated, “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.”

Being in a tight spot, Google needs to respond to the CCI by September 10th, or request a deferral, if needed. The company’s failure to do so will result in CCI holding hearings to decide whether Google is guilty of violating antitrust laws or not.

If declared guilty, Google may have its back to the wall ‎and end up changing its practices. It might also have to shell out 10 percent of its annual revenue as penalty.

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