It was a symbolic vote, but it reflects an atmosphere that is increasingly hostile to Google in Europe. On Thursday, 27 November, MEPs approved, by an overwhelming majority (461 for, 101 against and 88 abstentions) a resolution “for the defense of consumer rights in the digital market”, which is directed at the research engine. A text which, even before the vote, brought the United States to formally express their “concern”.
This text is very offensive because it “calls on the Commission to consider proposals to strip the search engines off other commercial services, as a possible long-term solution.” In short: raise the specter over decommissioning Google, by separating the “search” (its search engine) from all other services that have been associated with it since the inception of the company in 1998 (eg the platform form of Youtube videos or Google Maps mapping service).
A measure – unlikely – that would upset the economic model of the Mountain View firm, sitting on the complementarity between its services and the interoperability of data left behind by Internet users who use them.
The text was supported by German Andreas Schwab (EPP, right) and Spaniard Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE, center) – two leading countries in the offensive against Google. As pointed the site 01Net, the resolution is based on the proposals of the Open Internet Project – a pressure group of 400 companies like Axel Springer and Lagardère – and VG Media, which includes 200 German media. According to the New York Times, Mr. Schwab is also linked to the German law firm CMS Hasche Sigle, defending German publishers dealing with Google.
Certainly, recognizes a parliamentary source, the text will have “no effect on Google: they are not going to cut it in half just because we asked them! This is an indicative vote, Parliament has no jurisdiction in the matter. But it is a way to put pressure on the multinational.”
Investigation of abuse of dominant position
The company has more and more to worry about with the Europeans. The dominant or abusive position of the multinational is a major concern in Brussels. Under the Barroso presidency (2009-2014), the Commission opened an abuse of dominant position for investigation. The Commissioner responsible for competition at the time, Joaquin Almunia, tried at least three times to reach an agreement with Google so that the search engine changes its practices, and avoids a heavy fine. He eventually gave up under the pressure of the complainants – competing search engines like Microsoft and comparators as Kelkoo or Expedia – that continues to manifest itself today with the European executive.
The investigation should be pursued by the new Commissioner for competition, Danish Margrethe Vestager. This pragmatic and determined woman has refrained until now to make thundering declarations. She explains that she “needs time to decide what to do.”
Google’s lobbyists in Brussels are also worried about the trial and a bit indecisive new Commissioner to the digital economy, Germany’s Günther Oettinger, who told the press, before taking charge of his new portfolio, that he wanted to reform copyright and impose a tax to the motors that reference texts on the Internet.
A position shared by France, as recalled Fleur Pellerin, Minister of Culture in Brussels on Monday: “Today platforms are using creative content without participating in their financing. It is natural to think about this.”
Paris and Berlin are pushing for the Commission to insert in its 2015 legislative agenda a “form of regulation of Internet platforms leaning to more neutrality and fairness, or even a specific competitive framework,” says one of the cabinet of Axelle Lemaire, Secretary of State for Digital Affaires. This agenda should be set in December and “a Franco-German letter is being prepared to offer first control tracks.”