Tom Watson MP calls for EU sanctions against Google if latest proposals tackling search market dominance are a flop

Comment: Tom Watson MP is calling for a tougher stance

Tom Watson MP has called on the European Commission to consider sanctions against Google if a third round of proposals from the tech giant to change “anti-competitive behaviour” over search again fails to address the problem.

The battle between Google and the EU stems over alleged anti-competitive practices from Google when it comes to prioritising its own services on search listings while controlling 95 per cent of the online search and advertising market.

The commission concluded that Google may have abused its market dominance and penalised smaller companies. In response, Google pledged to bring in a series of changes to how it presents search results.

However, the company’s first round of proposals were deemed “not enough to overcome our concerns” by antitrust commissioner Joaquín Almunia after undergoing a market test.

Despite Almunia’s optimism that Google’s second round of proposals in October addressed the situation “more appropriately”, industry analysis again rejected the plans, even claiming that they could worsen the problem.

In a piece for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Watson claimed that the possibility floated by Almunia that Google’s latest set of proposals be approved without undergoing a market test would be a mistake, and called for tough action if Google again fails to produce adequate changes.

“The amended third set of proposals has now been submitted and, following a short delay, has been made public, not by the commission by Google,” he wrote.

“Worryingly, in a recent statement, Almunia indicated that he thinks in principle they are acceptable and cold be approved without a proper ‘market test’. That would be a mistake. After all, we know that the commission’s initial reaction to both the first and second set of commitments was that they might fix the problem, yet it took only a very short time for knowledgeable third parties to show that conclusion was wrong.”

He added: “If a proper examination of the latest package reveals that Google is once again trying to game the system, the commission should accept that it has been more than generous and should move swiftly to the normal procedure.

“That would result in a decision compelling Google to change its abusive practices, with the sanction of huge fines if it fails to do so.”

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