The European Parliament has passed a motion posing the idea of breaking up Google as part of efforts to tackle antitrust issues, but the result could prove of little consequence.
European regulators have struggled to conclude a wide-ranging study into Google and its practices and said that more time and consideration is needed before the case can progress.
The vote, proposed by European Parliament members Andreas Schwab and Ramon Tremosa, does not mention Google, but talks about unbundling a search engine from a main business.
This has led to speculation that Google is the target. V3 asked Google to comment on the proposed vote, but has received no response.
A vote on Thursday for the Supporting Consumer Rights in the Digital Single Market motion was passed by 384 votes to 174, with 56 abstentions. The section relating to unbundling search engines received an even bigger backing with 458 votes in favour of the motion, compared to 173 against and 23 abstentions.
The MEPs will be hoping the vote is noticed by the European Commission as it continues its investigation into Google, but the result is unlikely to have any bearing on the outcome of the case.
A witch hunt
In fact the vote comes amid complaints the antitrust investigation has now become politicised and something of a witch hunt against Google, meaning more important issues affecting consumers are being overlooked.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) said that the probe runs counter to the digital single market, and should be stopped.
"While other groups took the plenary session as a platform for solely attacking Google, the ALDE group chose to actually address the subject of the debate: the digital single market," said ALDE spokesperson Dita Charanzova.
"The digital single market is far greater than one company. We need to reform how the digital business world works and make sure it serves all Europeans no matter where they live."
Liberal MEP Kaja Kallas also disputes the vote's relevance. "There are proceedings going on to address competition concerns in the market of internet search engines, including commitments that should improve the competitive situation," she said in a blog post.
"[By] approving a resolution, the European Parliament would interfere directly in the dispute under discussion."
"In any case, this would be the task of Directorate General Competition [not] the European Parliament," she said.
More important matters
The European Parliament would be unwise to pick a fight with Google, according to Kallas, adding that its time would be better spent backing and supporting digital companies.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association also warned the Parliament against turning this into a political issue, explaining that it supports open competition but not "increased politicisation".
"As a tech association with a long commitment to sound competition policy, the increased politicisation of the Google competition investigation is deeply troubling," the organisation said.
"We have often sided with EU and US competition authorities in support of vigorous enforcement, even when focused on our industry's companies, when the facts and law justified action.
"It potentially undermines the legitimacy of competition law if it is seen merely as another tool to be manipulated by special pleading and used for protectionist and political ends."
A recent debate between Roland Tichy, president of the Ludwig Erhard Foundation, and commissioner Günther Oettinger made clear that a break-up of Google is not on the agenda.
Tichy said that Oettinger, who is now in charge of the case, preempted Kallas' comments about the economy.
Oettinger said that while he is in this position there would be "neither a break-up nor an expropriation" of Google.
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