Regulation

Is Google Set For A European Break-Up?

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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European Parliament proposal could see Google’s search business split off from its other operations

Google’s dominance in the European online search market could be at risk following news that politicians are planning to break up the company’s operations in the continent.

The European Parliament is planning to draft a non-binding resolution which would curb Google’s strength amid fears it has become too strong. The company is estimated to have around 90 percent of the search market, far ahead of competitors such as Yahoo and Microsoft’s Bing.

A decision could be made as soon as this week, with the final text of the draft resolution set to be approved before an expected vote on 27 November.

Justice, legal, Europe © Lisa S. Shutterstock 2012Set to split?

The motion, which does not mention Google or any other search provider by name, was reported by Reuters as calling for the European Commission, “to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” as a means to make the market fairer.

The European Parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the European Commission, which initiates all EU legislation and has been investigating Google’s dominance of online search for five years.

The motion reportedly has the backing of the Parliament’s two main political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists, meaning it should pass through largely unopposed.

However Margrethe Vestager, the incoming European competition commissioner, has indicated that she will listen to Google and various complainants before deciding on how to move forward with the antitrust inquiry into the company.

Google has declined to comment.

Google V Europe

The news would be the latest in a series of moves to block Google’s online dominance in Europe, as politicians seek a level playing field to ensure fair competition.

This includes the settling of an antitrust investigation carried out by the European Commission last year, following which Google agreed to clearly label search results from its own properties alongside displaying links from rival search engines in certain cases.

European privacy regulators also investigated Google last year concerning alterations to its privacy policies, which reportedly allowed the company to share user information across various services, even those which a particular consumers doesn’t use.

The company also notably came under fire for its tax payments on the continent, particularly in the UK, where it reportedly only paid £11.6 million in corporation tax on sales of over £3 billion back in 2012.

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