Google has an estimated 90 per cent share of the search market in Europe

EU Parliament passes recommendation to break up Google

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly backed a motion urging competition regulators to break up Google.

The resolution is non-binding, but German conservative lawmaker and co-sponsor of the bill Andreas Schwab said it was a political signal to the European Commission, which is tasked with ensuring a level playing field for business across the EU.

The resolution, passed with 384 votes for and 174 against yesterday, called on the Commission to consider proposals to unbundle search engines from other commercial services without mentioning any specific firms, but Google dominates search services in Europe with an estimated 90 per cent market share.

"Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies," said Schwab, adding that he had nothing against Google and was a regular user.

Google, which is currently subject to an EU investigation into complaints that it unfairly demoted rival services, declined to comment. If the complaints are upheld the firm could face a possible fine of about £3bn.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, whose predecessor Joaquin Almunia rejected three attempts by the company to settle the investigation, has said she will review the case and talk to complainants before deciding on the next step.

Some politicians criticised the proposal.

"Parliament should not be engaging in anti-Google resolutions, inspired by a heavy lobby of Google competitors or by anti-free market ideology, but ensure fair competition and consumer choice," said lawmaker Sophie in't Veld from the Parliament's ALDE liberal group.

Lobbying group Computer & Communications Industry Association, whose members include Google, eBay Facebook, Microsoft and Samsung, said unbundling was an "extreme and unworkable" solution that made no sense in rapidly changing online markets.

"While clearly targeting Google, the parliament is in fact suggesting all search companies, or online companies with a search facility, may need to be separated. This is of great concern as we try to create a digital single market," it said.

To make matters worse for Google, France and Germany also called for a review of the EU's competition rules to ensure global Internet companies could successfully be targeted.

The Commission is investigating a number of tax deals between companies such as Apple and Amazon and some member states on the grounds they may constitute illegal state aid.

Axelle Lemaire, French state secretary for digital affairs, said the two governments wanted to make sure the tax optimisation strategies used by companies to lower their corporate tax rates "are no longer possible".

They wrote to the Commission asking it to launch a public consultation "to discuss the framework that should be applied to these economic actors, to see if today's competition rules allow us to target the behaviours of these companies," he said.

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