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EU to vote on Google break-up

November 24, 2014

EU lawmakers are set to vote on a motion this week proposing the break-up of Google and other Internet firms. The move comes amid increasing political pressure on the bloc to curb their market dominance.

The Google logo in a magnifying glass
Image: dapd

Spanish Member of the European Parliament, Ramon Tremosa, announced Monday that EU lawmakers were scheduled to vote on a non-binding motion to curb the dominance of Google, including a suggested break-up of the Internet search engine giant.

The draft European Parliament motion would ask regulators to consider unbundling, or splitting up, Internet search engines from other commercial services.

Tremosa also said the draft would be discussed amongst Conservative, Liberal and Socialist parliamentary leaders on Tuesday and presented to parliament on Wednesday.

According to the motion seen by Reuters, the move was seen as "one potential long-term solution" to level the competitive online playing field.

Though the draft motion did not specifically mention Google or any other search engine, Google has an estimated 90 percent market share in Europe and European politicians have increasingly expressed concerns about the American company's dominance and others in the Internet industry like it.

Significant step

Although the parliamentary vote is non-binding, such a public call for a break-up would be the most far-reaching action proposed so far. It would be seen as a significant threat to Google's business.

While the European Parliament lacks the authority to break up corporations and has no power to initiate legislation, such a resolution would increase the pressure on the European Commission to take action against Google.

"It's a strong expression of the fact that things are going to change," said Gary Reback, a United States attorney who has filed complaints against Google on behalf of companies. He added "The parliament doesn't bind the commission for sure, but they have to listen."

The resolution was co-sponsored by German center-right Christian Democrat lawmaker Andreas Schwab and Spanish centrist Ramon Tremosa last week. Schwab told Reuters it was "very likely" to be adopted by his own parliamentary group and it is also supported by the main center-left group.

The new anti-trust chief for Europe, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, said she would take some time to decide on the next step in a long-running investigation into Google, after her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, had rejected a proposed settlement with Google which would have ended the matter.

European concerns

Concerns have been expressed in Europe over Google's policies on privacy and tax. Moves have been made to curtail the company's power, such as the so-called "right to be forgotten" case, meaning Europeans could ask Google to remove certain search results about them.

Google's rivals such as Yelp Inc have also argued that the company squeezes them out of Internet search results, favoring its own products.

uhe/bew (Reuters, dpa)