EU threatens to force Google split

November 25, 2014 03:53 AM

A threat to split up Google Inc. should be a “last” option to force it to change behavior that’s driving small companies out of business, according to one of the European Union lawmakers backing tougher EU rules.

Ramon Tremosa, a member of the European Parliament from Spain’s Catalonia region, said regulators should have the option of imposing a breakup if other ways fail to prevent Google from discriminating against other search services.

“Unbundling should be the last tool” for EU regulators “to incentivize Google to change its behavior,” he said in a phone interview. “We need the European Commission to act quickly because, if not, European enterprises will be forced to close.”

Google, already grappling with privacy and competition issues, risks another EU headache as some lawmakers seek to follow a successful attack on bankers’ bonuses with measures to break up the search giant. While the parliament can’t compel the commission -- the EU’s antitrust authority -- to alter its Google probe, it can amend draft legislation, as it did to shoehorn extra curbs on banker bonuses into a law toughening capital requirements.

Tremosa, from Barcelona, said small companies based in his city, including travel website eDreams Odigeo SA and Softonic International SL, “have been damaged by the monopoly of Google” and have cut staff and lost revenue as a result.

The EU’s probe into Google search hits a four-year anniversary on Nov. 30 and “if we have to wait two or three years more there won’t be European enterprises in this field,” Tremosa said.

Long-Term Solution
Lawmakers maintained a call for the commission to consider “proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” to aid competition in Europe, according to a resolution that the assembly is due to debate tomorrow and vote Nov. 27. The document doesn’t mention Google.

Google has made several offers to settle the EU’s probe. The EU said in September that it received very negative feedback from rivals on the company’s most recent concessions. Margrethe Vestager, who started work as the EU’s antitrust chief on Nov. 1, says she wants to meet companies that complained about Google before deciding where the investigation should go.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment today.

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