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02/12/2016

EU lawmakers to vote on Google break-up motion on Thursday

Digital

EU lawmakers to vote on Google break-up motion on Thursday

Fear of Google. [Patrick Barry/Flickr]

EU lawmakers will likely vote on Thursday (27 November) on a motion proposing the breaking up of Google and other Internet technology companies, increasing political pressure on the bloc’s antitrust regulators to take a stronger line on the search giant.

The European Parliament has no power to dismember a firm. But the vote, underlining widespread concern among EU politicians about American dominance of the Internet industry, would be a significant public challenge to Google’s business in Europe.

Andreas Schwab, a German Christian Democrat lawmaker at the European Parliament, and Spanish liberal Ramon Tremosa unveiled a draft of their resolution last week, saying separating search engines from other commercial services would ensure a level playing field for rivals in Europe.

The conservatives, liberals and Socialists, who command a large majority of the parliamentary seats, will work out a joint motion on Tuesday and expect to debate the issue in parliament on Wednesday and vote on it on Thursday, Tremosa’s aide said on Monday.

European politicians and some competing companies have complained that Google’s dominance allows it to promote its own services at rivals’ expense, and attacked it on a range of issues including its tax and privacy policies.

Google has regularly said it faces fierce competition in a constantly-changing market.

Parliament’s proposal to the commission, if passed, would put pressure on new EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to take a tougher line than her predecessor in resolving complaints against Google.

Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, held four years of investigations, triggered by complaints from rivals including Microsoft. German publishing group Axel Springer has also complained about Google’s market power.

The European Commission has never ordered the break-up of any company for anti-competitive practices.

Kurt Lauk, the head of the pro-business wing of Germany’s conservative party CDU, which is also Schwab’s party, criticised the proposal to break up Google.

“Instead of exploiting the opportunities of the Web, some lawmakers in the European Parliament are nursing their phobias,” he told Saturday’s edition of German financial paper Handelsblatt.

“Threatening Google and other large Internet companies who are in fierce competition with each other, is a loser’s debate,” Lauk was quoted as saying.

 Andreas Schwab and Ramon Tremosa, said on Monday that they were not waging an ideological battle against the world No. 1 search engine.

“Tremosa and Schwab are not ideological against Google! We are against monopolies,” the two lawmakers said in a joint statement.

“Unbundling is one of the ideas, but we proposed several ideas of solutions that are on the table including a ‘rotation mechanism’ (and) legislation on search engines.”

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