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Russia hits Google with $34 mn fine for breaching competition rules

Russia hits Google with $34 mn fine for breaching competition rules
Photo Credit: Pixabay
26 Jul, 2022
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Russia’s competition watchdog, the Federal Antitrust Service (FAS) has fined Google's parent company Alphabet $34.2 million for abusing its dominant position in the video hosting market.

The latest multi-million-dollar fine can be attributed to Moscow’s increasingly assertive crackdown on foreign technology companies. The FAS said that Google must pay the fine within two months of it taking effect. 

FAS said in a statement that the company “abused its dominant position in the YouTube video hosting services market,” without giving further details. 

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In a statement to Reuters, Google said, “We will study the text of the official decision to determine our next steps.”  

Russia has imposed numerous fines on the Russian subsidiary of Google this year. Recently, a court ordered the tech firm to pay $358.7 million in what prosecutors said was "a repeated refusal to remove content Russia considers illegal, such as 'fake news' about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine". 

Since Moscow launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine, it has also accelerated attacks on Western tech companies at home in an effort to exert more control over the online space, including by supporting local players to drive out their Western competitors, said the Reuters report. 

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YouTube, which has banned Russian state-funded media globally, is under intense pressure from Russia’s telecom regulators and politicians. On the other hand, Gazprom Media — a media conglomerate linked to the state-controlled gas giant Gazprom — is heavily promoting RuTube, the Russian alternative to YouTube, which has seen a sharp increase in traffic since February. 

Google stopped selling online ads in Russia in early March though it made some free services available. Meanwhile, its Russian branch officially filed for bankruptcy after authorities seized his bank account, making it impossible to pay the salaries of employees and vendors. 

Google is also facing antitrust case in India since 2018 for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system and more recently for unfairly promoting its mobile payments app in the country.

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For years, tech giants, including Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook (Meta) have battled allegations that they operate and abuse their privileged access to customer data for competitive gain. In May this year, the European Commission regulators have charged Apple with breaking competition law by limiting rivals’ access to technology that is the key to making contactless payments, unfairly benefiting its own Apple Pay service.