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Penalties & Probes: A Look Into Google’s Antitrust Cases Around The World

Several countries around the world have been investigating and imposing penalties on Google. But why?

Before we head into the crucial part of today’s story, we have to understand one important thing — What are antitrust laws?

Antitrust laws are statutes developed by governments to protect consumers from predatory business practices and ensure fair competition. In India, antitrust law is called The Competition Act, 2002. Under the Act, anything that is against competitive practices is prohibited. This Act stops companies from abusing their dominant position in the market and harms the competition.

Now, to the story: Google is in trouble in several countries because of this law.

Google & India

On October 8, 2020, Livemint reported, quoting sources, that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) is examining a complaint that said that Google has abused its dominant market position in smart television operating systems.

The person was quoted by Livemint saying, “If a TV manufacturer intends to use Google’s operating system, you have to enter into certain agreements. These agreements prohibit you from manufacturing any other device, whether it is televisions, phones, etc., on any *forked version of Android”. *Forked android refers to OS based on Android.

Later on October 12, 2020, sources told Livemint that a group of 15 startup founders held a virtual meeting with CCI to brief the regulator about the company’s anti-competitive policies in India. Sources also said that the talks involved Google’s latest imposition of its Play Store billing system on Indian developers and the 30% commission charges for selling digital goods and services via the system.

Being investigated by the CCI is not a new thing for Google. In 2018, CCI imposed a $21 million penalty on Google for search bias. Later in 2019, CCI began investigating against the company for allegedly misusing its position to lessen the ability of smartphones manufacturers to choose the alternative versions of its Android mobile OS. On June 2020, a complaint was filed against Google with the CCI, alleging that the company was using unfair measures to promote Google Pay in India.

Google & International Markets

European Union has never been kind to Google. In three antitrust cases, the company has been fined over 8.2 billion euros ($9.7 billion). Recently, Google has come under fire again. In August 2020, the European Commission opened an in-depth probe into the company’s proposed $2 billion takeover of Fitbit. Why? Because Google could further strengthen its position in Europe’s online advertising market by getting access to the health data owned by Fitbit.

At present, the US Department of Justice and state attorneys are probing Google’s antitrust case and they are considering whether to push Google to sell its Chrome browser and part of its advertising business. The Justice Department is also preparing a separate antitrust lawsuit, saying that Google has allegedly abused its control of the online search market.

Earlier in September, Reuters reported, quoting sources, that China is preparing to launch an antitrust investigation into Google. Sources added that the case was proposed by Huawei last year and has been submitted by China’s top market regulator to the State Council’s antitrust committee for review.

Is There An Impact?

Even though Google’s parent company Alphabet witnessed its first revenue plunge in history in the second quarter this year, it still managed to surpass Wall Street’s revenue expectations. On the call, writes The Verge, CEO Sundar Pichai said, “we saw the early signs of stabilization as users returned to commercial activity online”. Pichai’s statement shows that the company is already recovering from the impact caused by the pandemic.

The one question that we want to leave you here with is, “Do these investigations and penalties impact Google in a major way?”. If you think about it, the answer would be, ‘No, they don’t’. Because Google makes a lot of money. Also, these fines are passed on to shareholders. At the end of the day, Google would just brush off these penalties by saying that it is just a cost of doing business.

In conclusion, it is hard to imagine our lives without Google these days. However, the technology giant needs to be held accountable for its actions. Just because it has grown too big doesn’t mean that it should be left in its own way because it has the responsibility to play it fair and not misuse its dominance.

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