The Google antitrust drama keeps migrating east. First the US FTC settled its investigation of Google without any significant penalty or restrictions. More recently, the long European antitrust inquiry appears to be “essentially” over, with a settlement built on the presentation of “rival links.”
Last week, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) decided to impose a fine on Google ”not providing information and documents required in an investigation.” The fine was roughly $166,000 and included a demand that Google cooperate going forward.
The CCI has real power should it find Google to be in violation of antitrust rules and “competition norms” in the country. That could mean up to $5 billion in penalties. But even more daunting, the CCI could order a breakup of the company.
According to its charter, the CCI is “empowered to pass orders to correct a company’s conduct in the market place. Also, the regulator can go for structural remedies that could see breaking up of dominant enterprises into separate businesses.” This is highly problematic for Google because there’s a history of significant government corruption in India. It’s not clear whether and to what extent that has permeated the CCI and could taint its investigation.
Should the CCI determine Google violated competition norms/anticompetition regulations it’s not clear (to me) what Google’s recourse would be. The fact that India is such a huge mobile market (less so a PC internet market) gives the CCI significant leverage over Google. The company would not want to quit the country to avoid facing CCI remedies.