US expresses ‘concern’ over EU proposal to break up Google

Google has been facing antitrust scrutiny from European officials.
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The United States doesn’t seem to like the European Parliament’s proposed breakup of Google.

The US Mission to the European Union responded to news of a draft proposal by the European Parliament calling for an “unbundling” of Google’s businesses with a disapproving tone.

The proposal, reported Friday, aimed to separate Google’s search operations from the rest of the company as one solution to antitrust concerns. The European Parliament doesn’t have the power to break up Google, but the motion could apply political pressure on the European Commission, which sets the region’s legislative agenda. The Commission itself is investigating Google’s competitive practices.

The Mission, which is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, appears protective of Google in light of these efforts. In an email to The Wall Street Journal, the Mission said it “notes with concern” the European Parliament’s proposal.

“It is important that the process of identifying competitive harms and potential remedies be based on objective and impartial findings and not be politicized,” the US Mission said.

It did not return a request for comment. Google declined to comment.

The parliament’s proposal is largely seen as political posturing. But experts say if the proposal is ultimately approved, it could have further reaching consequences.

“Part of the worry is over a precedential effect,” said David Olson, a professor at Boston College Law School. The delegation’s comments likely stem from a concern that European officials would try to bully a successful US company, he added.

One thing is clear: European officials are concerned about Google’s dominant position as an Internet company. Legislators are concerned the search giant could potentially abuse its influence to hurt competitors, or that it may have already done so.

The European Commission has investigated allegations that Google favored its own products and services over those of competitors in search results for the past four years.

The two came to a proposed settlement in February, under which Google agreed to display search results for its own services in the same way as those for rival companies. The settlement did not require Google pay a fine or change its corporate structure.

The deal came under intense scrutiny, leading the Commission to ask Google to revise its proposal. Meanwhile, critics of the original deal have spoken out from across industries and around the globe, including European politicians, competitors like Microsoft, and French and German media companies.

An ultimate decision over the settlement is expected to be made by incoming competition chief Margrethe Vestager. The European Commission said she would listen to all complainants before deciding how the investigation would proceed.

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