European Parliament politicians have tabled a motion that proposes forcing search companies, chiefly Google, to split off their search businesses into standalone units to curb any abuses of market dominance.
The plans were unveiled by MEPs Ramon Tremosa and Andreas Schwab as part of a motion entitled Supporting Consumer Rights in the Digital Single Market.
One proposal in the motion, seen by V3, "calls on the European Commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution".
This does not specifically mention Google, but the rationale for such a motion is clear given the company’s huge power in Europe, and the ongoing anti-trust investigation into the firm which is now in its fourth round of negotiations.
The MEPs have also suggested a "rotation mechanism", akin to the Browser Choice Screen applied to Microsoft, which would rotate the results displayed from other providers alongside Google's.
"While Google would be entitled to keep the current design, it would have to ensure that all relevant verticals would be able to compete," the document states.
Introducing their ideas, the MEPs wrote: “Google has not only failed to offer adequate remedies to address the Commission’s concerns, it has pursued its practices unabated and continued to suppress competition to the detriment of European consumers and businesses.”
“In our view, it is essential that the Commission take a fresh look at the complaints and at Google’s overall conduct, and ensure that the scope of its investigation includes all practices by Google that may distort competition.”
MEPs will debate the proposals on Wednesday, before a vote on Thursday.
Despite the bold nature of the motion, the vote cannot result in any legal action forcing Google to alter its business practices.
However, a vote in favour of the proposals would put pressure on the new Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, to take a tough line against Google, as patience among MEPs over the five-year Google case wanes.
Vestager has already said that she needs more time to investigate the Google case before making any decisions.
Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesman for the EC Competition Office, did not comment directly on the MEPs' suggestions, but reiterated Vestage’s comments.
"Search engines are key players in the development of the Digital Single Market. We are committed to ensuring fair competition in the markets they are active in,” he told V3.
"Commissioner Vestager will decide on how to take the ongoing antitrust investigations into Google's business practices forward, once she has heard what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say."
Jonathan Cornthwaite, a partner at law firm Wedlake Bell, also said that any suggestion of Google being broken-up is "premature".
“It should also be remembered that Google has much experience of beating off potentially hostile investigations,” he told V3.
"It was only last year that US regulators concluded that Google had not manipulated web search results in order to damage rivals.
“And since the anti-trust arena is where law, economics and public policy all collide with one another, predictions about the outcome of competition law investigations are notoriously unreliable.”
V3 contacted Google for comment on the draft motion but had received no reply at the time of publication.
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