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European Parliament backs resolution to break up Google

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In a symbolic vote, European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a motion on Thursday recommending that anti-trust regulators separate Google’s search engine from the company’s other commercial services.

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The non-binding resolution – which was passed by a majority of 384 votes against 174 – did not mention any specific search engine by name. But with an estimated 90 percent of Europe’s market share, Google was evidently the target.

The vote in favour of the motion is the clearest public sign yet of Europe’s growing concern over the influence of US tech giants.

Among other measures, the resolution calls for Google to unbundle its search engine from commercial services such as YouTube or online shopping. The motion is based on the premise that the Mountain View-based company has used and abused its dominant market position as a search engine to promote its other services to the detriment of its competitors.

“Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies,” said Andreas Schwab, a conservative German lawmaker and co-sponsor of the motion.

He added that he had nothing against Google and was a regular user of the search engine. “I use [it] every day,” he said.

Pressure on the European Commission

The vote, however, will have little real impact on Google’s day-to-day operations. It is instead a largely symbolic gesture meant to put pressure on the European Commission, which is responsible for ensuring a level playing field for businesses within the 28-member union.

Some European lawmakers criticised the resolution as unfair.

“Parliament should not be engaging in anti-Google resolutions, inspired by a heavy lobby of Google competitors or by anti-free market ideology, but ensure fair competition and consumer choice,” said lawmaker Sophie in’t Veld from the Parliament’s ALDE liberal group.

Google is the target of a four-year investigation by the Commission, triggered by complaints from a number of the company’s competitors, including Microsoft, Expedia, European publishers and others.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said she will review the case and talk to complainants before deciding on the next step.

Lobbying group Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Google, eBay, Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, said unbundling was an “extreme and unworkable” solution that made no sense in rapidly changing online markets.

“While clearly targeting Google, the parliament is in fact suggesting all search companies, or online companies with a search facility, may need to be separated. This is of great concern as we try to create a digital single market,” it said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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