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Google under antitrust investigation in India over AdWords

Google is already under investigation in other antitrust cases before the Competition Commission of India

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India's antitrust agency has initiated an inquiry into Google's termination of an AdWords account with a remote technology support business, after allegations that it was done to promote the Internet giant's own services in the area.

The Competition Commission of India said in a decision posted Tuesday that an investigation would be required to find out what prompted Google to take the action and whether or not the termination was legitimate.

"It is unlikely that a firm operating under competitive constraints would undertake such actions that alienate consumers and generate bad will towards it," the CCI wrote in its order. "Google's practices prima facie stem, to a large degree, from its undisputable dominance in the online search market."

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Google launched a tool called Helpouts last November to connect people with experts over live interactive video for free or paid advice. The service added a revenue stream for the company in the form of transaction fees from providers.

The complainant Vishal Gupta has alleged that several remote tech support companies have been suspended from the AdWords program to promote Google's own activities in an unfair, discriminatory and uncompetitive manner, according to the CCI order.

The AdWords account held by his remote technology support company was withdrawn on Oct. 22 last year. In an email the next day Google informed that the account was suspended because of a violation of Google's user safety policy, without issuing any notice or any prior information, according to the records. Google later made the suspension permanent.

"We're always happy to answer questions about our business, and we're confident that our products are compliant with competition law in India," a Google spokesman wrote Tuesday via email. "We are reviewing the order and will extend our full cooperation."

Google was fined about US$166,000 in March by the CCI for not providing information and documents required in another investigation that dates back to 2012 and is focused on allegations of Google's abuse of market power in online search and search advertising.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com



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