Google is facing increasing European pressure to have its 90 percent market share in the European internet market reined in. Photo: Bloomberg

Alexei Oreskovic, Julia Fioretti and Alastair Macdonald San Francisco

THE European Parliament is preparing a non-binding resolution that proposes splitting Google’s search engine operations in Europe from the rest of its business as one possible option to rein in the internet company’s dominance in the search market.

European politicians have grown increasingly concerned about Google’s and other American companies’ command of the internet industry, and have sought ways to curb their power.

The draft motion does not mention Google or any specific search engine, though Google is by far the dominant provider of such services in Europe with an estimated 90 percent market share. Earlier on Friday, the Financial Times described a draft motion as calling for a break-up of Google.

Google has declined to comment.

The motion, seen by Reuters, “calls on the commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution” to levelling the competitive playing field.

Parliament has no power to initiate legislation and lacks the authority to break up corporations, and while the draft motion is a non-binding resolution, it would step up the pressure on the European Commission to act against Google.

Google already faces stern criticism in Europe about everything from privacy to tax policies, and has been wrestling with a European court’s ruling that requires it to remove links from search results that individuals find objectionable.

The company has grown so large as to inspire distrust in many corners.

“It’s a strong expression of the fact that things are going to change,” said Gary Reback, a US attorney who has filed complaints on behalf of companies against Google over fair search. “The parliament doesn’t bind the commission for sure, but they have to listen.”

Europe’s new antitrust chief said she would take some time to decide on the next step of the four-year investigation into the internet search leader.

European Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that she would take a representative sample of views from involved parties in the case and check on the latest industry developments before taking any action.

Resentment, however, has been building in Europe for years. Google has tried to counter that mistrust, which its executives believe is linked to European perceptions of the US in general.

Andreas Schwab, the German Christian Democrat legislator who co-sponsored the resolution, said it was “very likely” it would be adopted as both his own centre-right group, the largest in parliament, and the main centre-left group supported it. Schwab proposed the resolution along with Spanish centrist Ramon Tremosa earlier this week.

Google “continued thereby to suppress competition to the detriment of European consumers and businesses”, Schwab and Tremosa said. –

Reuters