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Get a move on with the Google antitrust case, EU Parliament tells Commission

Get a move on with the Google antitrust case, EU Parliament tells Commission

But the Commission said it will take a decision in due course

The European Commission's antitrust investigation into Google's search practices should be resolved right away, because otherwise it risks losing its credibility on digital issues, according to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

A large majority of Parliament members voted on Tuesday to adopt a report on EU competition policy prepared by one of its members that urges the EC to speed up its Google anti-trust probe: 526 MEPs voted in favor, 108 voted against it and 59 abstained.

The MEPs welcomed further investigations by the Commission into Google's practices in the mobile sector and in the digital market in general. But the report blasts the Commission, saying that despite a four-year investigation and three sets of commitment proposals, it "has achieved no demonstrable results" in its main concern: probing whether Google gives its own services preferential treatment in search results.

MEP Morten Messerschmidt who prepared the report said in a statement that he was not seeking to harass Google, but that he wants the Commission take swift competition decisions in such fast-moving and dynamic markets as online search and advertising.

The Parliament's message was meant for Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who succeeded Joaquín Almunia on Nov. 1 last year. Since then, she has been discussing the case with complainants who want the Commission to impose sanctions on Google for allegedly favoring its own services in search results at the expense of results from competing sites.

More recently, Vestager also met with Google executives to hear the company's arguments. So far, no deadline for a decision has been set.

The Commission needs to set a reasonable deadline, said MEP Ramon Tremosa in an email. Google will only take corrective action if faced with the possibility of a mandated breakup or of a hefty fine, he added.

Tremosa was one of the MEPs who drafted a non-binding resolution calling on the Commission to break up Google to remedy the antitrust concerns, which was adopted by the Parliament last year.

However, the Parliament must wait for the Commission to act since it has no power to influence the process.

Meanwhile, the Commission's position has not changed since yesterday, a Commission official said, adding that it is planning to make a decision in due course.

The report also addressed other digital topics. The MEPs stressed that the EU should have a strong net neutrality law that treats all traffic equally, a plan that the Parliament is currently discussing with European countries that favor a version of net neutrality which would allow some traffic discrimination.

The Parliament also called on the Commission to give more attention to the broadband sector. Former monopolies still have a staggering market share of over 80 percent, and competitive pressure is key to ensuring that consumers can benefit the most from high-quality services at affordable prices, according to the report.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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