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CCI Orders Fresh Probe Against Google For Abuse Of Dominant Position In Advertising

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Competition Commission of India (CCI) has ordered fresh probe against Google for investigating violations related to usage of it’s ad-space, especially for Technical Support Services companies. This latest complaint has been filed by a person named Vishal Gupta, who has alleged that Google Adwords operatives are extremely “opaque and not transparent”.

In the latest order issued by CCI, it was said, “Google’s practices prima facie stem, to a large degree, from its undisputable dominance in the online search market. Therefore, Google’s practices towards AdWords customers such as the RTS (remote technology support) firms in this case, need to be investigated.”

Google Adwords

CCI has directed the its Director General (DG) to investigate the role of all those persons who were directly or indirectly responsible for Adwords business in India, and on the actions of which the participating companies in Adwords had to suffer loss.

Vishal Gupta is the owner of a company named Shyam Garment Group of Companies, which owns and manages Shyam Garment Pvt Ltd (SGL) and Delhi Call Centre Pvt Ltd along with Audney, which is registered in USA. The complaint alleges that Google deliberately suspended Adwords account operated by his business to promote Google Helpout, a new service started in USA.

CCI is already investigating couple of cases against Google for anti-trust activities, and had recently fined the company Rs 1 crore for not supporting the investigating agency. In case the previous charges are proved, Google can be fined upto Rs 31,000 crore. And now, this new investigation certainly means more trouble for the search giant.

Background About Remote Technology Support Industry in India

As I have been associated with technical support companies in the past, providing them with Adwords consultation, here is some background story about this industry.

iYogi, a leading tech support services company, started this industry around 8 years back, when it initiated providing remote technical support to customers based in US and Canada. The business process is pretty simple: Customers in US/Canada visit Google and enter search terms such as “technical support for (their PC brand)” ; “Printer not working” etc.

Remote technical support companies then start bidding on such keywords using Adwords program, and drive traffic to their websites. Once the customer calls them, technical support specialists provide them support using remote access of their laptops and charge their fees.

The problem started when some fly-by-night fraud companies started technical support business in India, wherein they deliberately scared US customers so that they pay them their service charges to remove technical issues from their computers. Several media publications reported this and asked their readers to be aware of such fraud services. The issue was taken up by Better Business Bureau (BBB) in USA which directed Google to suspend such services.

Instead of determining which companies are actually frauds and which are genuine, Google decided to implement wide scale Adwords suspension of almost all technical support companies based in India. As Adwords was the major source of traffic for tech support firms, business was almost wiped out in India.

Importance of Google Adwords

Google Adwords is right now the most sought after advertisement platform for businesses all over the world. Via Adwords, companies can bid on keywords which are being searched on Google search engine and pay as per the clicks or impressions generated.

Adwords accounts for more than 80% of total revenues generated by Google. In the year 2012, Adwords program was responsible for generating revenues of $33.3 billion all over the world.

Digital Advertisement in India, which is dominated by Google is increasing at a fanatic pace, and will increase to $12.46 billion by 2016. In fact, India is the fastest growing market for Google Adwords. This will give you a rough idea about how valuable and important Google Adwords is, if we talk about online advertisements.

But the dark side of this fact is that, Google is very secretive with it’s adwords platform. Anti-trust cases against Google has been launched all over the world, with new cases popping up on a regular basis.

Now, it’s CCI and Google both need to co-operate and filter out the fraud companies so that genuine, technical support firms are able to carry on their business. We will keep you updated on the developments.

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