The Competition Commission of India yesterday said it had launched an anti-trust probe into Google’s online advertising practices, deepening the Internet giant’s legal woes in the country.
Commission Secretary S.L. Bunker said the probe would take “at least a couple of months” to complete and was in response to a complaint from matchmaking Web site Bharatmatrimony.com.
“We are investigating Google,” he said, adding that the matrimonial Web site “has filed information which is being investigated to see if it can be verified.”
In February, the Economic Times reported that Bharatmatrimony.com had complained that Google had “abused its dominance by engaging in discriminatory and retaliatory practices relating to AdWords.”
“We have requested the Commission to investigate Google’s practices and impose remedial measures to protect competition,” a statement from the company said.
AdWords, which earned the bulk of Google’s US$36.5 billion advertising revenues worldwide last year, sells keywords to companies that appear in the site’s search engine, allowing them to promote their product online.
Sources at Bharatmatrimony.com told the Economic Times that the firm had filed the complaint over AdWords’ sale of keywords relating to Bharatmatrimony.com to its matchmaking rivals such as Shaadi.com.
A Google spokesman said the company had “not received any communication” on the matter and declined further comment.
The Indian commission has the power to impose fines on companies found guilty of violating competition law.
It fined construction giant DLF 6.3 billion rupees (US$119 million) in August last year for misusing its dominant position in the market and imposing “draconian” conditions on buyers in Delhi’s satellite city of Gurgaon.
Yesterday’s investigation comes as Google, which employs close to 2,000 people in India, is embroiled in another probe over its possible breach of domestic foreign-
exchange transactions rules.
The Directorate of Enforcement — a body that monitors foreign exchange dealings — is investigating how money was shifted from Google to its foreign entities and also its receipt of funds from abroad.
Separately, Google is named along with 18 other Internet companies in a criminal court case over obscene content available on its blogs and video-sharing Web site YouTube.
In other regulatory problems, competition authorities as far afield as the US, South Korea and Argentina are probing the California-based company’s online advertising model given its dominance of the market.