A rumor regarding the proposed breakup of Google Inc. by the EU Parliament appeared at the end of last week and seems to have been right on the money. Today, the EU Parliament took a vote Strasbourg, where 384 legislators voted in favor of the controversial initiative, with 174 against and 56 abstentions, despite last-minute objections from the US Congress.
There are two important points to note about this vote however. Firstly, the EU Parliament vote does not do anything to put such a motion into effect. This power remains firmly in the hands of the European Commission, which is the executive body responsible for proposing legislation. Although the vote has no practical effect yet, it is likely to apply additional pressure on the Commission to take a tougher stance against Google.
Secondly, the vote did not specifically mention Google by name and technically could apply to any search engine. Although, as Google has over a 90 percent market share in Europe, any legislation would pretty much be targeted exclusively at the search giant. Here’s the gist of what the vote was all about:
According to the EU Parliament, “the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market” and there is a “need to prevent online companies from abusing dominant positions”.
Therefore, the European Commission should act “to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines” and the Parliament recommends “unbundling search engines from other commercial services.”
Many European politicians believe that Google’s dominant market position is a threat to the continent’s digital economy. The argument is that that information and online products cannot be fairly accessed without influence from the US tech giant.
“Many suppliers and providers don’t really have genuine access to consumers because there is market dominance by certain search engines.” Evelyne Gebhardt, Alliance of Socialists and Democrats
However, this sentiment is not shared by all politicians, some from within the EU have warned about increasingly protectionist policies being put through the parliament. Several US senators and congressmen also attempted to intervene by sending out letters which expressed their “great concern” about the proposal.
“We shouldn’t look for a scapegoat to explain our weaknesses,” Michal Boni, EPP lawmaker from Poland
Alongside the search engine vote, the same text also covered the hot topic of net neutrality and another call to remove remaining carrier roaming charges applied throughout the EU.
The EU’s recent digital legislation, including the controversial “right to be forgotten”, is already having an impact on Google’s services, but the pressure towards a breakup is likely to spell new trouble for the search giant in Europe.