Lawmakers add to Google’s woes
Add their vote for EU to consider breaking up search engines
LAWMAKERS added to Google’s regulatory woes in the EU after they voted overwhelmingly for the EU to consider breaking up search engines to bolster competition.
The European Parliament backed a resolution by 384 votes to 174, asking the European Commission – which is investigating Google for possible antitrust violations – to consider “unbundling search engines from other commercial services”. The motion, which is not binding, did not mention Google by name.
“European enterprises are losing revenues and people are getting fired,” said Ramon Tremosa, a member of the EU Parliament from Spain’s Catalonia region. “European consumers are not having the most pertinent choice because of Google’s preferential treatment to its own services.”
Google, which has a market share of more than 90 percent for internet search in some European countries, faces an assault on its business from across the bloc. It was criticised by privacy regulators this week, targeted by German politicians who urged the EU to push on with the antitrust probe and faces a possible levy on internet copyright, adding to a Spanish law that allows publishers to charge for web content.
“It is very important that the application of competition law in individual cases remains independent from politics and that antitrust procedures are not put into question,” said Ricardo Cardoso, a competition spokesman for the commission after the vote.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, believed investigations should be “limited to what can be clearly identified as competition issues and that they are conducted in an impartial way”, Cardoso said.
The pro-business liberal group, which said it voted against splitting the company, said “parliament should not be engaging in anti-Google resolutions inspired by a heavy lobby of Google competitors”, according to a statement.
The parliament’s plans have angered the US government and a US-based industry group, which criticised attempts to in- fluence the EU’s four-year long antitrust investigation. The Computer and Communications Industry Association said the vote for “an extreme and unworkable solution” was “clearly designed to increase the pressure on Commissioner Vestager”.
Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, did not immediately respond to a call and an e-mail seeking comment on the vote.
While Google has been silent on the assembly’s plan, it has won the support of Germany’s Guenther Oettinger, the EU’s digital commissioner, who said a breakup would not happen on his watch.
Splitting Google is just one option that the European Commission should consider as it decides what to do with an investigation that hits a fouryear anniversary on November 30, Andreas Schwab, the architect of the parliament’s call, said this week.
Vestager earlier this month said that she would decide where the probe goes after she had spoken to companies affected by Google’s behaviour. Plans to settle the case were delayed on negative feedback from rivals. – Bloomberg
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief.