Russian enforcer orders Yandex to stop discrimination. Комментарий В. Дианова, партнера антимонопольной практики и Н. Вознесенского, партнера антимонопольной практики Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner для Global Competition Review

Russia’s competition watchdog has ordered Yandex to stop giving its own companies preferential opportunities to promote their services on its search engine, as part of a warning that the company may be abusing its dominance. Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service yesterday said that Yandex, the world’s fifth largest search engine, has been giving preferential opportunities to its own products and services to attract the attention of consumers, which causes rivals in adjacent markets to be discriminated against.

Vitaly Dianov, a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in Moscow, said it is the first time in recent memory that Yandex has faced such a serious behavioural antitrust investigation.
Previous attempts by various claimants to blame Yandex for abuse of dominance or unfair competition in different markets have been unsuccessful, Dianov said. Meanwhile, the FAS has consistently refused to go after the Russian company, although the agency did block its proposed acquisition of taxi aggregator Vezet Group last year, Dianov added.
“The case might not be an easy walk for the FAS,” Dianov predicted, adding that Yandex could choose to fight to prove that it does not hold a dominant position or “that its actions were reasonable and in consumers’ interest”.
Fellow Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner partner Nikolay Voznesenskiy noted that the agency’s issuance of a warning is not a finding of a violation, but rather an expression that it has preliminary evidence of an infringement.
Notably, the agency has required as part of the order that Yandex provide all businesses equal access to its featured services on its search engine, referring to Yandex’s so-called “wizards”, Voznesenskiy said.
Yandex’s website explains that a wizard is a search result element that answers a question directly on the search results page. “It may be a weather forecast, a picture, a translation of a word, a converter, or much more… Data for wizards is provided by Yandex services (for example, the video wizard) as well as by official sources (for example, the currency exchange calculator).”
This focus on granting equal access suggests that the FAS is keen to change behaviour, rather than issue fines, Voznesenskiy said.


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