EU sets out to prove it’s bigger than Google
It’s not that they have a Thing against Google or anything, but the European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed a motion urging competition regulators to break up Google.
The resolution, passed by 384 votes to 174 yesterday, was not actually calling for fisticuffs, but rather was an official shout out to the European Commission, who are being asked to consider proposals to unbundle search engines from other commercial services. In simple terms, the EU parliament doesn’t mind Google being a search engine, but it’s all the added everything, including mail, social media, digital media and shopping that they have a problem with, on the basis that Google then controls the life of millions of Europeans. Of course, the resolution doesn’t name names, it just refers to search engines with bundled products; however Google owns the search services in Europe with an estimated 90 per cent market share.
German conservative lawmaker and co-sponsor of the bill Andreas Schwab said: "Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies," adding that he had nothing against Google and was a regular user. Bet his search history isn’t scrutinised at all.
Part of the problem is that Google is currently subject to an EU investigation into complaints that it unfairly demoted rival services- if found guilty, Google could face fines of up to £3bn. Google declined to comment.
Lobbying group Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Google, eBay Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, said unbundling was an "extreme and unworkable" solution that made no sense in rapidly changing online markets.
"While clearly targeting Google, the parliament is in fact suggesting all search companies, or online companies with a search facility, may need to be separated. This is of great concern as we try to create a digital single market," it said.
So can the EU break Google? Well, as we all know, the elected politicians in the European parliament have practically zero power, and as such the resolution they passed with great aplomb is actually non-binding on the European Commission itself. However, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said she will review the case and talk to complainants before deciding on the next step. Which could be absolutely nothing, although it is worth noting that Ms Vestager’s predecessor Joaquin Almunia rejected three attempts by the company to settle the investigation into its allegedly shady dealings.
So for now it’s Google 1, EU 0 (x100).