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Europe may ask Herr Google: Would you, er, snap off your search engine? Pretty please

Wenn es nicht zu viel Mühe Herr Schmidt

By Iain Thomson, 21 Nov 2014

The European Parliament will reportedly consider pressuring, say, ad giant Google to snap off its search engine and move it away from its biz operations.

A draft motion, seen by the Financial Times, calls for the "unbundling [of] search engines from other commercial services." The motion has the support of the two main blocs in the EU, the European People's Party and the Socialists, and could be decided next Thursday, we're told.

The vote will come as Google continues wrangling with European watchdogs over complaints the US giant is abusing its online dominance. The advertising goliath has upset rivals by promoting Maps, YouTube, and so on, over competitors' offerings in its web search results.

The European Commission and Google are trying to hammer out a settlement, which may well involve changes to the way Google runs its search engine in Europe.

"Unbundling cannot be excluded," Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the parliamentary motion's supporters, told the FT today.

If the vote passes, it won't have any immediate effect on Google's business on the Continent. The European Parliament doesn't have the power to enforce such a motion, although the European Commission could conceivably give it a shot.

The European Parliament and the Commission are not to be confused: the people elect parliamentary members, who in turn elect a president, who forms the commission, which works as the union's executive body.

The draft motion doesn't name Google; instead, we're told, it states in the context of breaking up monopolistic strangleholds:

Calls on the [European] Commission to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term solution

Google has had increasing problems with the European regulatory authorities over antitrust issues, the right to be forgotten, use of autocomplete, and the company's practice of linking to news articles and then selling advertising around them. But this is the most serious step taken against the company by the European Parliament to date.

The Chocolate Factory is the most dominant search engine in the EU by a country mile and that's bothering some people. But forcing the company to split off its search function seems unworkable without wrecking the biz completely. And perhaps that's the point.

Google told The Register that it had no comment on the issue. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing