Splitting dominant search businesses from other business services could resolve competition issues, say MEPs

Out-Law News | 28 Nov 2014 | 4:20 pm | 1 min. read

The EU's competition regulator should consider forcing dominant internet search engines to operate their search business separately from the "other commercial services" they provide, MEPs have said.

The European Parliament made the recommendation in a non-binding resolution it adopted on Thursday.

"The online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market, given the potential development of search engines into gatekeepers and the possibility they have of commercialising secondary exploitation of information obtained," the MEPs' resolution said.

"The European Parliament ... calls, therefore, on the [European] Commission to enforce EU competition rules decisively, based on input from all relevant stakeholders and taking into account the entire structure of the digital single market in order to ensure remedies that truly benefit consumers, internet users and online businesses; [and] calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider proposals aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term means of achieving the aforementioned aims," it said.

The Parliament called on the Commission "to act quickly to consider potential solutions tending towards a balanced, fair and open internet search structure" and said it is important that search engines index, evaluate, display and rank information in an "unbiased and transparent". The Commission is currently investigating Google in relation to its search practices and compliance with competition rules.

The resolution, on supporting consumer rights in the digital market, also called for new consumer rights laws to be swiftly implemented across EU countries and for the speedy adoption of new data protection laws.

The Parliament also outlined its support for the principle of 'net neutrality' and said it was important that there is "an efficient and balanced framework for the protection of copyright and intellectual property rights, geared to the reality of the digital economy".

The resolution also called for the development and implementation of new EU and national regulations governing online and mobile payments, and urged the Commission "to take the lead in promoting international standards and specifications for cloud computing". MEPs said those standards should "enable privacy-friendly, reliable, accessible, highly interoperable, secure and energy-efficient cloud services".