EU digital economy commissioner comes out against Google breakup

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Günther Oettinger, the European commissioner in charge of the digital economy, has said that he opposes any plan to separate Google’s various businesses in order to combat the company’s dominance in Europe.

Oettinger, who has been vocal about his desire to challenge Google’s power, was quoted by business journalist Roland Tichy on Tuesday as having said that a breakup would be the “instrument of a planned economy, not a market economy.”

He was responding to reports that the European Parliament is planning to urge the Commission to put a breakup on the table as it considers how to resolve a major ongoing antitrust case regarding [company]Google[/company] pushing its own services in its search results, and various other complaints about its bundling of Google services with its Android operating system, and its use of copyrighted text in search results.

The digital economy commissioner’s opposition to a breakup plan was confirmed to me by his office.

Oettinger’s boss, digital single market chief Andrus Ansip, also said on Tuesday that he was “not ready to say that they will have to be broken up, talking about vertically integrated structures” — a comment not explicitly aimed at Google, which is being investigated by competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, but pretty obviously made in reference to that case. “We have some doubts about misuse of gatekeeper positions and also leading positions in the markets,” he said.

Ansip has a coordinating role in EU digital policy, and has much greater influence over the outcome of the Google antitrust case than Oettinger does.

The Parliament is expected to urge the Commission to consider the breakup as an option, in a resolution that will be debated on Thursday. The biggest blocs in the Parliament support this resolution, according to a Friday report (registration required) in the Financial Times.

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