Today many Americans are busy preparing Thanksgiving meals or getting ready to travel to the homes of friends and family to celebrate the holiday. But Google certainly won’t be giving thanks for the European Parliament’s vote in favor of a resolution to “unbundle” Google’s search engine from the rest of its business.
The widely anticipated, non-binding vote calls upon the European Commission, the EU’s antitrust regulator, to “enforce EU competition rules [and] to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services.”
The vote happened earlier today and was approved 384 to 174 with 56 abstentions. Beyond the “break up Google” angle (Google was not identified by name), the European Parliament called for the creation of a single digital market in Europe for the purpose of:
- Increasing tax revenues
- Promoting “non-discriminatory online search”
- Preventing the “secondary exploitation” of search data
- Developing uniform rules for cloud computing
- Promoting net neutrality
The resolution essentially has no legal force. It’s a “political statement.” It’s also an aspirational statement of policy goals. However it indicates the political climate and mood throughout Europe, which is increasingly hostile to Google (except of course for consumers).
The European Commission is the body that has the real teeth and power in this matter. Margrethe Vestager, the Commission’s new antitrust chief, took over from Joaquín Almunia on November 1. Almunia tried several times unsuccessfully to craft a settlement with Google that would be politically acceptable. Each time Google critics or rivals emerged to argue the settlement didn’t go far enough and wouldn’t have any meaningful impact on the market.
The European Parliament resolution is intended to put more pressure on the European Commission to take faster and stronger action in “restraining” Google’s dominant market position. If it finds that Google abused its market power the European Commission could impose billions in fines.
It’s clear there’s …read more