European Parliament members propose break-up of Google


Two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Andreas Schwab and Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, have presented a proposal for a solution of the long-lasting dispute between the European Commission and Google, on the alleged anti-competitive practices of the search engine.

Google accused of abusing dominant position in online search  
Google holds 90% of the online search market for desktop computers and 60% for mobile devices. The search engine is being accused by the EU policy makers of not showing neutral search results, but giving preferential treatment to their own products and services by placing them on top of the result list. Google “continued thereby to suppress competition to the detriment of European consumers and businesses,” Mr Schwab and Mr Tremosa said.

Search engines may be forced to unbundle search and other services
One of the solutions MEPs Schwab and Tremosa propose to prevent Google from abusing its dominant position is  that the results should be displayed according to a rotation system on the search result pageThis alternating display system would ensure consumers to receive relevant results while benefiting from greater choice.However, if Google’s introduction of the proposed system would take too much time, the MEPs propose the introduction legislation to prevent the domination of a certain search engine. This legislation would force search engines to separate their search activities and other business activities, meaning in practice that big search engines like Google would have to split up into multiple companies.

Fair competition, priority of the new Commission
Fair competition in the Digital Single Market is also a priority for the new European Commission, which assumed power this month. MEPs Schwab and Tremosa welcomed the attention that the new Competition Commissioner Vestager is paying to the alleged anti-competitive practices in the online market. However, Ms. Vestager has stressed that she will take her time to assess possible policy options. The Members of European Parliament however advocate for swift action to be taken by the European Commission as Google has been under scrutiny from European regulators since at least 2010.

Next steps
Members of European Parliament will vote on the measures proposed today. It is likely that they will adopt the resolution, as MEPs from different political groups have already voiced their support. The resolution is non-binding and would not directly lead to new legislation. However, it does give an important signal to Competition Commissioner Vestager that the European political body wants a formal anti-trust case against Google to be started as soon as possible.

Ecommerce Europe is not directly involved in the competition investigations, but it closely monitors the developments and stays in continuous dialogue with the European Institutions to ensure a level playing field in the e-commerce sector. For an overview of our ideas for a fair and competitive digital market, please see our position paper on e-Regulations.

Reporting of anti-competitive practices
Web merchants experiencing unfair competition and restrictions on online sales can always anonymously contact the European Commission here.