On Tuesday March 10th, the European Parliament adopted with a large majority (526 votes in favour, 108 against and 59 abstentions) a report by European Conservatives and Reformists MEP Morten Messerschmidt on EU Competition Policy, including the EU’s competition investigation into Google, and the ongoing investigation surrounding tax practices in certain EU member states.
“No competition without transparency”, the report indeed stresses the importance of a strong competition policy in the EU as the basis of removing barriers to the single market and protecting the interest and choice of consumers. Concerning the EU’s competition investigation into Google, the European Parliament expresses regret that after four years of investigation the Commission has not shown any demonstrable results in the case itself or the allegations of the preferential treatment of its own services in displaying results of search queries. “I’m not pointing the finger against Google itself but against the fact that negotiations are lasting too long. It’s four years since the Commission has taken initiative after initiative but nothing’s really going on. I’m not seeking to put Google in the dock, but we have seen several initiatives and four years passed and we have yet to resolve this case. The credibility of the Commission’s digital strategy is on the line, if it fails to ensure that competition infringements in fast-moving and dynamic digital markets are tackled swiftly” so Mr. Messerschmidt.
Most of the blame for the inertia has been laid at the feet of former Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who spent years going over a whopping three revised offers from Google and left office with the matter still unresolved. That’s why, following Messerschmidt speech, Ramon Tremosa i Bacells (ALDE, Spain) took position on the Google issue, stating that he’s very pleased for the strong mandate assigned from the EP to Margrethe Vestager (Almunia’s successor), consisting to take action on this dossier. “About the Google dossier, it’s not an EU vs. US case, it’s simply against monopolies. Google has a 90% of market share in some European companies, and is the facto a gatekeeper of the Internet or European S&M enterprises and consumers. The preferential treatment of Google loans services is not a fair practice. Google not always has the best and more pertinent choices for consumers. Moreover I am convinced that Google only will move with the treat of a fine or with the treat of a binding regulation. In order to be credible in the digital agenda, the Google case needs to be solved.” For ALDE, stated Ramon Tremosa I Bacells, the Google issue is not a question of taxation, they are asking for a level playing field in the European market assuring companies to equally compete in the market, and avoid Google to monopolize the market in the next years.
Finally Ivan Jakovčić (ALDE, Croatia), regarding the position of Google on the European market “We have a single digital market in which we enter and digital freedom in Europe should according to be the 5th freedom. And we start here with a monopole. We have to take long-term measures otherwise it is not going to be good for our economies.”
As one can deduce from the interventions made at the Plenary Session, MEPs believe that effective scrutiny of dominant firms like the search behemoth and quick retaliation for abuses are the only way to stop internet monsters from pushing out small and innovative competitors. “A strong competition policy must be at the core of all of the EU’s major priorities if we are to create the conditions for a more competitive economy.”
To know more:
-. EU Competition Policy Report:
-. Dossier Google de Nea say de Eulogos: