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20th Jan 2018

MEP vote ups pressure on EU to break up Google

  • MEPs on Thursday will vote on a non-binding motion to break apart Google (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday (27 November) are targeting Google in a vote to pressure EU anti-trust regulators to unbundle the company in a move contested by the United States.

The non-binding resolution asks the EU to unbundle search engines from other commercial services as a means to tackle market dominance.

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While the resolution does not mention Google by name, it is widely understood to be the target. The Internet firm is said to have over a 90 percent of the market share in Europe.

German centre-right MEP Andreas Schwab and Spanish liberal Ramon Tremosa proposed the vote.

The motion is expected to obtain the backing of the house in a move described by a former anti-trust official in the Wall Street Journal as the politicalisation of a regulatory issue.

A handful of US lawmakers in a letter addressed to parliament president Martin Schulz on Tuesday have also complained.

“This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges, do not appear to give full consideration on the negative effect such policies might have on the broader US-EU trade relationship,” they say.

The letter follows similar concerns expressed by the US mission in the EU, which warned against the politicisation of the issue.

"It is important that the process of identifying competitive harms and potential remedies be based on objective and impartial findings and not be politicized," it said earlier this week.

The parliament’s vote is seen as part of growing discontent against Google in Europe.

The California-based firm is also facing an ongoing four year probe by the European Commission into its market dominance.

Google is accused of squeezing out rivals and abusing its pole position to distort search results by ensuring that links to its own products and services come top.

Indications suggest there is little appetite for the EU anti-trust regulators to rush the investigations or break apart the Internet firm.

Guenther Oettinger, who is in the charge of the EU digital agenda, told German business journalist Roland Tichy on Tuesday that there would be “no break-up and no expropriation".

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has also described the ongoing probes as complex affairs that will take time to complete.

“The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps,” she told the EU assembly's economic affairs committee on 11 November.

Her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, attempted to resolve the anti-trust issues with Google on three previous occasions.

Thursday’s vote is meant to pressure the commission to hurry up.

"In case the proceedings against Google carry on without any satisfying decisions and the current anti-competitive behaviour continues to exist, a regulation of the dominant online web search should be envisaged," the two MEPs behind the vote said in a statement.

EU lawmakers ponder 'unbundling' of Google

EU lawmakers are considering whether to prevent Google and fellow search engines from being involved in other commercial activities on the Internet.

German coalition deal aims for 'Macron-lite' EU renewal

Merkel and Schulz clear the first hurdle of coalition talks, but the SPD's full membership backing is still needed. The likely coalition parties express support for Macron's eurozone reform ideas, but remain cautious.

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