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Is Google’s European Antitrust Settlement In Jeopardy?
Widespread dissatisfaction among public and political figures with the existing antitrust settlement between Google and the European Commission appears to be putting the settlement in danger. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the run up to this week’s European Parliament elections saw an increase in “rhetoric against the settlement with Google.”
The article depicts an intense, behind the scenes lobbying effort by both sides: on the one hand Google is trying to bolster the settlement while other officials want to revisit it and potentially start over. The rhetoric and behavior also suggests that some European officials, in addition to their general animus toward Google, may also be seeking to retaliate against the company in the wake of NSA spying allegations.
In the just-concluded European Parliamentary elections, anti-EU, anti-immigrant and far-right candidates generally beat more moderate and mainstream European parties. It’s not clear how this will affect pressure on the European Commission to revise or scrap the existing settlement deal. I suspect however that things will not improve for Google.
The anti-Google rhetoric has been pretty overheated of late. For example, according to the WSJ:
The French government said it would push for a new European law later this year to classify Google and other Web giants like public utilities, forcing them to guarantee access to all of its services like phone operators. In Germany, Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel advanced the idea of breaking apart Google in a German newspaper this week, though officials acknowledge such a move would require new laws.
While such a move isn’t imminent it suggests the degree to which European officials determined to do something dramatic, even radical, to “stop Google” and/or “level the playing field” on behalf of European companies.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens after the new European Parliament is seated and the lobbying process plays itself out in the European Commission over the next several months.