Google’s crunch day as EU lawmakers debate plans to split search giant

27 Nov 2014

Today is a crunch day for Google in Europe as the European Parliament prepares to debate a motion on creating a more level playing field for internet search players, with one remedy that proposes splitting up Google.

Google’s spat with Europe has also widened as EU data chiefs have proposed extending the controversial “right to be forgotten.”

Last week it emerged that MEPs including the new commissioner for the Digital Economy Günther Oettinger are to press for splitting Google’s search business from its other commercial services as a way of resolving a long-running antitrust battle.

A draft motion by Germany’s Andreas Schwab called for an “unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services should be considered as a potential solution to Google’s dominance.”

The motion, which goes before the European Parliament, is backed by the European Parliament’s two main political blocs, the European People’s Party and the Socialists.

The parliamentarians believe that Google, which has 90pc of the search market in Europe, is too big of a monopoly.

Trans-Atlantic battle ground opens up

The motion has sparked fury not only within Google but among US senators who believe the EU has a heavy-hand when it comes to targeting US tech companies active in Europe.

A letter from senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch as well as congressmen Dave Camo and Sander Levin published by the Financial Times read: “This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges [and] do not appear to give full consideration to the negative effect such policies may have on the broader US-EU trade relationship.”

Ironically the antitrust case against Google involves not only German publisher Axel Springer but software giant Microsoft, a US company which itself has been punished by the EU over Windows its Windows monopoly and choice of browsers.

The influential Computer & Communications Industry Association in the US has also rowed into the debate.

“As a tech association with a long commitment to sound competition policy, the increased politicization of the Google competition investigation is deeply troubling,” the CCIA said.

“We have often sided with EU and US competition authorities in support of vigorous enforcement even when focused on our industry’s companies when the facts and law justified action.  

“It potentially undermines the legitimacy of competition law if it is seen merely as another tool to be manipulated by special pleading and used for protectionist and political ends.”

European Parliament image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years