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European Parliament Mulls Call to Split Off Google Search

Draft motion suggests regulators consider separation of search from other businesses.

Reuters / Francois Lenoir

The European Parliament is preparing to call on regulators to consider splitting Internet search from other commercial services, according to a draft motion seen by Reuters, escalating a longstanding effort to curtail Google’s dominance of the industry.

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. A public call for a break-up would be the most far-reaching action proposed and a significant threat to Google’s business.

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 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 leveling the competitive playing field.

Parliament lacks the authority to break up corporations, but a public motion would step up the pressure on the European Commission.

“It’s a strong expression of the fact that things are going to change,” said Gary Reback, a U.S. 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.”

In November, Europe’s new antitrust chief said she would take some time to decide on the next step of a four-year-long investigation into the Internet search leader, after her predecessor had scrapped a proposed settlement with the company.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who took over from Joaquin Almunia on Nov. 1, said she would take a representative sample of views from parties involved in the case and check on latest industry developments before taking any action.

Rivals such as Yelp, most of them significantly smaller than Google, argue that the company is squeezing them out in Internet search results.

(Additional reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco, writing by Edwin Chan, Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Henderson)

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.