Lawmakers added to Google Inc.’s regulatory woes in the European Union 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 isn’t binding, didn’t mention Google by name.
“European enterprises are losing revenues and people are getting fired,” Ramon Tremosa, a member of the EU parliament from Spain’s Catalonia region, said in a statement. “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 criticized 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 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,” Ricardo Cardoso, competition spokesman for the commission in Brussels, said by e-mail after the vote.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief who took office on Nov. 1, thinks investigations should be “limited to what can be clearly identified as competition issues and that they are conducted in an impartial way,” Cardoso said.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief who took office on Nov. 1, earlier this month said she would decide where the probe goes after she’s spoken to companies affected by Google’s behavior.
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 U.S. government and a U.S.-based industry group, which criticized attempts to influence 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, didn’t 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’s won the support of Germany’s Guenther Oettinger, the EU’s digital commissioner, who said a breakup wouldn’t 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 four-year anniversary on Nov. 30, Andreas Schwab, the architect of the parliament’s call, said in an interview yesterday.
Vestager she earlier this month she would decide where the probe goes after she’s spoken to companies affected by Google’s behavior. Plans to settle the case were delayed on negative feedback from rivals.
German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and three ministerial colleagues wrote to the EU earlier this month to say they supported the antitrust probe into Google. They asked the commission to ensure dominant search engines don’t favor their own services, use others’ unauthorized content, effectively force websites to use their platform and impede the transfer of advertising content to other platforms.