The European Union have been putting more and more pressure on Google to decouple its commercial site from its site across Europe in an ongoing antitrust case.

Google have been in a long-running legal battle with the EU over its antitrust and its anticompetitiveness in Europe. At a meeting on the 27th of November, EU officials voted in favour of breaking up the search engine giant.

Parliament have no actual authority over Google and cannot force it to break up its commercial and search engine site. Google has tried to appease the government by displaying paid advertisements on their site. Although it appears parliament are still not satisfied and Google could soon be forced to break up its business.

Although parliament have no power over the search engine’s future, they can add pressure to the European Commission (EC), which does have regulatory powers over companies in Europe.

Google has more than 90 per cent of the market in web searches across many European countries. Clearly dominant over its rivals, it has been accused of favouring its own networks in searches leaving little to no competition for small sites and businesses. In many cases Google provides answers to questions, maps or flight times at the top of the search result, giving users no reason to click onto external sites but also saving users time and providing convenience.

This isn’t the first time Google have been waged with an antitrust case. In January 2014, after an 18-month investigation, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came to the conclusion that Google did not intentionally use anticompetitive methods to promote its own products in order to maintain dominance over competitors. Any negative impact was deemed accidental and changes had been made to the site to benefit the consumer.

The same argument is now being posed by competitors in Europe, such as, Yelp, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Expedia as well as others. The move by the EU has been seen as a political one. In a letter to the leaders of the European Parliament, the house judiciary committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte wrote that the motion was, ‘encouraging antitrust enforcement efforts that appear to be motivated by politics, rather than grounded in factual and legal principles’.

Mario Mariniello, a former antitrust official who now works for the Bruegel think tank has also warned, ‘It is a very bad signal. Politicisation is now getting to an extreme’.

Earlier in the year it seemed as though a resolution was soon to be reached until the then EC’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia stepped down and Margrethe Vestager took his place. She planned to take her time with the case, commenting in a European parliament hearing, ‘The issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players, they are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps’.

If forced to decouple, Google could face potential problems regulating two separate companies in a heavily legislative area. As well as attempting to maintain its current market share. The decision could be detrimental to Google’s competitive future within Europe, but it has proved itself the victor in a previous legal battle and it certainly won’t be going down without putting up a fight.


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