Google Should Face EU Web Law If Probe Fails: Lawmakers

Lawmakers urged the European Union to draft legislation curbing Google Inc. if a five-year antitrust probe fails to make the world’s biggest search engine company behave fairly.

Google’s search engine forms a “critical infrastructure” that should offer a level playing field for all businesses, Andreas Schwab, a German member of the European Parliament, told reporters in Brussels today. Schwab, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said he’d prefer that antitrust regulators resolve possible competition problems with Google instead of resorting to legislation.

Schwab and Ramon Tremosa, a lawmaker from Spain’s Catalonia region, said the EU’s antitrust arm should order Google to share part of its search results page with rival specialized services as part of a “rotation mechanism” that they said would give Web users greater choice, according to a joint statement.

Google is facing threats to its business across Europe, including a possible Internet copyright levy, that adds to a lengthy EU antitrust investigation into allegations that it discriminates against rivals. It has also been criticized over how it’s applying a court ruling that said Europeans can get outdated information about themselves deleted from search results.

If the antitrust case doesn’t reach any satisfactory conclusions, “regulation of the dominant online Web search should be envisaged,” the lawmakers said in the statement. Any law should seek to protect consumers, data and copyright, they said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, declined to comment.

Time Needed

EU laws can’t be proposed by the European Parliament. Schwab said that “how this is done is in the hands of the European Commission.” The two lawmakers have also asked Andrus Ansip, an EU vice-president who oversees digital issues, to examine Google’s role as a provider of Internet infrastructure in the EU, according to a letter they sent him.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust chief, said last week that her competition probe can’t address many of the concerns being raised about Google. She said she needed “some time to decide on the next steps” in the investigation and would consult those directly affected by Google’s practices.

Publishers have previously raised concerns over Google’s use of headlines and news snippets that they want to charge for. Axel Springer AG bowed to pressure and licensed news content to Google for free after removing snippets cut Web traffic from Google by 80 percent.

EU Digital Economy and Society Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the EU could levy a fee on Google for its use of intellectual property, according to comments he made to the Handelsblatt newspaper last month. Spain last month passed a so-called “Google tax” that would allow publishers charge for content reproduced on the Web.

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