India’s latest Google probe sparked by junior antitrust researchers

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Two junior Indian antitrust research associates and a law school student were behind a complaint that sparked a probe into Google’s alleged anti-competitive practices in the country, in what has become another regulatory challenge for the U.S. firm.

India's latest Google probe sparked by junior antitrust researchers 1

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of Google logo in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) ordered a full-blown investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google in April for alleged abuse of its Android platform to hurt rivals, but the complainants’ names came to light only when the order was made public last week.

The case was filed by Umar Javeed and Sukarma Thapar, who work as research associates at the CCI, and Umar’s brother Aaqib, a law school student who interned with the CCI briefly in 2018, their LinkedIn profiles showed. All three declined interview requests for this article.

Though it’s unusual for CCI researchers to file cases with the watchdog, antitrust lawyers said, there is nothing wrong with it. They acted in their personal capacity, a senior government official said, adding that all are aged in their 20s.

“They deserve appreciation, they have done a commendable job,” S. L. Bunker, a former senior member of the CCI, told Reuters on Monday. “The developments will be watched eagerly as the case involves many intricacies and its implications will be world over.”

The CCI didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A recent antitrust case in the country against Google involved a matchmaking firm backed by top lawyers. The U.S. company was fined $20 million in that case last year, though it is under appeal.

In the latest case, the three young informants relied on the European Commission’s order from last year in which Google was fined $5 billion for forcing manufacturers to pre-install its apps on Android devices. Their complaint is against both Google LLC and the…

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