back to article MEPs demand answers from EU antitrust chief about planned Google search biz deal

MEPs have asked Brussels' competition boss Joaquin Almunia to explain to the European parliament why he thinks that a planned settlement deal he recently struck with Google over its dominant search biz in Europe is good enough to address concerns about the ad giant's alleged abusive tactics. In a letter – seen by The Register …

COMMENTS

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice

    The nice thing about all this is that it becomes public which MEPs are on Microsoft's payroll.

    1. dogged

      Re: Nice

      The nice thing about all this is that it becomes public whether or not Google bought off Almunia.

      In commentard-land that would be perfectly acceptable though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice

      And which anonymous posters are on Google's. The really nice thing about this is that Google are trying to pull a fast one and the MEPs noticed.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice

      I was wondering how long it would be until the typical 10 MS fans would downvote me. You see, all pro-MS/pro-Windows/pro-Metro/anti-Google/etc. comments that start a thread usually have these 10 upvotes, and any thread starting comments that are in any way critical of Microsoft's shady dealings usually also get the 10 downvotes. If you don't believe me, just check.

      I'm not accusing anyone of astroturfing - just of blind MS fanboyism.

      1. dogged

        Re: Nice

        This isn't about MS, much as you would like it to be, AC.

        It's about whether Google are illegally leveraging their monopoly into different markets (and anyone who's been to google.com knows that actually they are) and what the Commission can do about it.

        There are precedents in place for punishing abuse of a monopoly. This enquiry is all about why those precedents are not being followed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nice

          "This isn't about MS, much as you would like it to be, AC."

          Sorry, but this is all about MS. All you need to do is to check who are the complainants, and who are their backers. It is SCO all over again, the same proven and old tactic of using a proxy to attack what you perceive as a menace.

          "It's about whether Google are illegally leveraging their monopoly into different markets (and anyone who's been to google.com knows that actually they are) " - really? What monopoly, and how are they leveraging it? It is not like they are forcing android handsets to have a button usable only to launch google search, or maybe they have integrated drive with a monopoly OS, or maybe google search is the default engine in the browser illegally bundled with the said monopoly OS... That would be abuse of a monopoly, right?

          I wonder how you "know" so much...

          1. dogged

            Re: Nice

            94% of all searches use Google. That monopoly.

            And don't call me a shill, you anonymous shitsock. I work for a living and use a traceable handle unlike some ACs I could mention.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I wonder how you "know" so much...

            I wonder how you "know" so little. Blind faith in ANY massive corporation is the preserve of the naive and immature. Grow up.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I wonder how you "know" so much...

              And of course it wouldn't look like you were arguing with yourself if you got a fucking login.

              I have one. I'll show you mine.....

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Holmes

    "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

    That is something We should be saying to all of the MEPs and the unelected lot as well.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

      Agreed. Sounds a bit like whataboutery though....

    2. Psyx

      Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

      "That is something We should be saying to all of the MEPs and the unelected lot as well."

      What's that: you don't believe the head of the BNP is a reasonable and fair representation of our nation in Brussels?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

        However he is a fair representative for a minority of our nation. Though I expect much like UKIP he doesn't turn up to meetings or provide any useful input just pocketing his wage and going on the odd jolly,

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

          I assume "the unelected lot" refers to the Commission. Well I think this process shows that people's view of the Commission is incorrect.

          They are just civil servants appointed by our elected MEPs and representatives of our elected governments (Council of Ministers). As we're seeing in this case, the Commission is trying to do something MEPs may not agree with so the MEPs are pulling them up on it.

          Sounds reasonable and not at all like the impression given in UK papers.

          It seems to me this is the second lie the UK media has been caught in. We (perhaps I read the wrong papers) were given the impression that our hapless government has been forced to do all kinds of terrible things by those bad people in Brussels. Then last year David Cameron threatened to veto something he didn't like.... showing that he had the power to stop things he didn't like all along. In other words the things he complains about are all things his government or the previous ones had previously signed up to!

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

            I don't think you really understand the EU. It's a lot more complicated than that.

            Some things (many more than before) are now decided by majority in the Council of Ministers.- so the UK does not have a veto. On a few key areas, all countries still have one, and can exercise it.

            Secondly I don't think the Parliament has the power to do anything about this decision. They can quiz Commissioners, but they often can't overrule them. They can't sack individual commissioners, for example, but they can sack the whole lot at once. The whole commission does get a vote, so they can overrule this decision, but neither the Parliament nor the Council of Ministers can stop it.

            It's an odd structure, for an unusual organisation. Most of the power lies with Council of Ministers still, but the Parliament is getting more power. It has a veto in serveral areas now too. Only the Commission can propose legislation though. And the Commission gets executive power in various areas, so that it controls Competition policy for example - and has a pretty wide brief on what it can do, and no-one can overrule it, except the European Court of Justice.

            1. Matt 21

              Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

              By and large I agree with what you're saying but...... Our government agreed to the reduction in veto powers and, as you say the whole commission can be removed if needs be so this or anything else can be stopped. The commission are only there to carry out the will of the parliament (and Council of Ministers). Of course in practice the commission is unlikely to be dismissed for one questionable action like this.

              I read somewhere that this changes after the commissioners are re-appointed this year and that individual commissioners will be individually diminishable.

              On the other hand we could argue that the Commission are just following the rules voted for by the Parliament so if MEPs feel they're not correctly interpreting those rules then, as you say, they could go to the European court.

              1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

                but...... Our government agreed to the reduction in veto powers

                Matt 21,

                That's rather the point Cameron is trying to make. His government didn't agree to the largest reductin of veto power, and yet there may be nothing he can do about it. A big chunk of vetos went with Lisbon, under Labour. Another lot went under Maastricht, in Major's time, but the Conservative party of 2010 would probably have voted that treaty down.

                The EU is fundamentally undemocratic because of this. The saying is that no Parliament can bind a future Parliament. So if you didn't like ID cards, you could have voted Conservaite of Lib Dem at the last election, and got rid of them. Even if the scheme had already come into force. Whereas if you don't agree with QMV on banking reform in the EU now, you're shit out of luck. There's absolutely no-one you can vote out of office to get it replaced.

                That would need treaty change, and every EU government has to agree to get that, so even if something so pissed off the 500m voters of every EU country that they voted out their current governments - if Luxembourg were happy, they could stop it (with a population of 100,000).

                Obviously it's hard/impossible to make the EU democratic. Basically because it's a bunch of separate states, with a necessarily odd institutional structure. But the more it gets involved in everyday politics, the worse this will seem - as the voters realise they have no power to do anything about it. Which is why public support for the EU has collapsed across Europe during the Euro crisis.

                I think it's also becuase the electorates don't feel they've got anything in common with each other. Which is why there's been no proper bailouts in the Eurozone - just loans to keep the ones in most trouble from having to leave. German taxpayers for example, don't see why they should pay for Greek welfare.

                The UK worked becasue our taxpayers mostly do see each other as all in it together. However we're probably over-centralised - and if the Scots really feel that they can't control the UK government they may vote to bugger off, and get a more local one that they can.

                On the Competition rules, I don't know when they went through. The Parliament is no longer the rubber stamp that it was before Lisbon. It's got quite a bit more power now. But pretty much any EU rules from before 2007 had minimal input from the EP. It was all stitched up by the Commission and the Council of Ministers.

                1. Matt 21

                  Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

                  I don't think you can say that the lack of bailouts was due to anything other than the level of banking integration and banking legal frameworks. While I've seen reluctance to bail out countries where some argue it's throwing good money after bad I'd say that the EU has held together remarkably well during the global economic crisis. Having travelled extensively over Europe in recent years I've heard surprisingly little grumbling from the people I meet and work with.

                  You are however right that our government gave up some of its veto rights. However that kind of thing is going to happen with any international treaty. You sign it and it's difficult to go back on, otherwise no-one will trust you.

                  The Lisbon treaty doesn't come into effect until later in the year and I believe any member state can force a return to the Nice treaty way of voting on a particular issue. The Nice treaty uses a population weighted method so Luxembourg (which has a population of 450000 BTW) has a smaller say than the UK.

                  In practice votes are usually unanimous, to quote Wiki:

                  "Voting practice

                  In practice, the Council targeted unanimous decisions, and qualified majority voting was often simply used as a means to pressure compromises for consensus. For example in 2008, 128 out of 147 Council decisions were unanimous. Within the remaining decisions, there was a total of 32 abstentions and 8 votes against the respective decision. These opposing votes were cast twice by Luxembourg and once by each of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands, and Portugal.[21]"

                  I don't wish to bore people but there is a list of areas where action can be taken by majority and a list where any decision has to be unanimous. Plus any legislative change has to go before the parliament.

                  1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

                    Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

                    Matt 21,

                    What I mean by bailouts, is something that'll work. Not a short-term sticking plaster to keep the Euro going.

                    In my opinion the Euro is still doomed at the moment. Not that it won't survive, just that without massive amounts of luck, they're going to have to do something new to make it work. Otherwise Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus or Portugal is going to be forced to default/leave.

                    The Cyprus bail-out was the most shocking. The Eurogroup deliberately destroyed the Cypriot economy to make a point, and all over a paltry couple of billion. Not that the Cypriot or Greek governments come out of this well. But the Greeks were given loans and no cash. Because of which their economy is now 25% smaller. If they'd been given loans to keep them from defaulting, and about €5-€10 billion a year for 2-3 years, they'd have had a bad recession, instead of virtual economic collapse and depression. But the electorates in Germany, France, Finland etc don't see Greece as us, but as them. I don't think you can share a working political system under those circumstances. That's why Scotland may be better off independent. The discussions about 'our oil' that I hear, lead me to think that many Scots now see the rest of the UK as a separate entity in competition. If that's the majority view anyway.

                    1. Matt 21

                      Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"

                      To be fair part of the problem with Cyprus was about not wanting to bail out the Russian mafia :-) Perhaps more seriously they were also not keen on bailing out financial institutions which had been offering stupidly high interest rates but perhaps that's more a call for better regulation.

                      While I think you've got a point I think you'll see the same issues in any large "group". Look at the terrible way the US treated the areas hit by hurricane Katrina. Or on a smaller scale a lot of people feel that England is too London-centric. Yet, despite this, these groups continue.

  3. Big_Ted

    Oh my dear god no.......

    The thought of a bureaucrat explaining technical details to MEP's who most likely barely understand how to use a search engine let alone the details of this agreement is crazy.

    Add to that the idea of th EU telling a US company to split is even dafter.

    What should happen is that all other search engines should be looked at and told they must match whatever Google are being told to do. So if Google have to spilt off search so should MS etc. Not that it will make any real difference to Google if they do have to split....

    1. Psyx

      Re: Oh my dear god no.......

      "The thought of a bureaucrat explaining technical details to MEP's who most likely barely understand how to use a search engine let alone the details of this agreement is crazy."

      No it's not.

      The point of a briefing to MEPs is to explain the choices made in clear terms, rather than obscure the details in pages of obscure documentation. Parliamentary hearings and briefs HELP our ministers (who might no be au fait with technical aspects as you say) understand issues. Without them they're just left stranded with several hundred pages of micro-font technobabble.

      Personally, I'd rather have our clueless MEPs informed, rather than being both clueless and uninformed.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Oh my dear god no.......

      Big_Ted,

      This is nothing to do with Microsoft.

      Just like Google can offer whatever browser they like with Android or Chrome OS. Or Ubuntu for that matter. This is because they haven't been ruled a monopoly, or accused of abusing said monopoly.

      In search on the other hand, Google have a monopoly, and are being accused of market abuse. Where MS aren't. Hence the deal with the Commission, as the alternative is going through the process of being accused, and maybe convicted.

  4. ratfox Silver badge
    Pint

    Curious to see how it will go

    Ramon Tremosa has urged Almunia in the past to promptly send a Statement of Objections to Google, so it's pretty much clear how he thinks this should go. On the other hand, Almunia is visibly quite convinced that this solution is just fine.

    I'm not sure how much pressure Tremosa can apply on Almunia to change his mind. Technically, I guess that politics should not enter in such a debate, but considering the importance of Google, it's pretty inevitable…

    Need a popcorn icon, so beer will have to do.

    1. Psyx

      Re: Curious to see how it will go

      "beer will have to do."

      A good motto to live by, I find.

  5. Richard Jones 1
    Unhappy

    Is There Any Other Search Engine?

    OK M$ have their wooden spoon effort Bing, could it find its own foot in a well lit room?

    As for the rest, happily I have not found them except when I searched for them from the list of (failures) oops alternative 'hide things' engines.

    Hint, if anyone wants to run a search engine, at least help the damned thing find results and present them in a sensible order.

    If I had to use some of the moaner's efforts I'd need to build a taller house and add a flat roof so that I had something to jump off.

    I did try Foundem once; others might enjoy the experience but not me.

    I note Google have declined a bit in this regard recently but at least they no longer offer the 'Hotel 6 inch nails' and its ilk as they used to do.

    1. mark 63 Silver badge

      Re: Is There Any Other Search Engine?

      quite they dont have competition, thanks to cleverly putting the search box in a visible position on the screen , unlike yahoo, lycos , alta-vista and the other competition at the time.

      Having read this article , and even the preceding one it refer to I still have little idea what the meps want google to do, or even what the problem is.

      can someone put it in idiot terms for me?

    2. dogged

      Re: Is There Any Other Search Engine?

      It's not about search engines.

      It's about (as I read across the menu bar) -

      Maps, Shopping, News, Books, Flights, Apps, Finance.

      And probably other things.

      The issue is not about Google's search. It's about the way Google's search will offer you Google Shopping even though it's shit, at a higher point than anyone else's comparisons. It's about the way Google's search will offer you Google Finance before it offers you MoneySavingExpert.

      This is called leveraging a monopoly into other markets and it's illegal.

      Do try to keep up.

    3. Psyx

      Re: Is There Any Other Search Engine?

      "Is There Any Other Search Engine?"

      Duckduckgo?

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Is There Any Other Search Engine?

        Agreed about Duckduckgo.

        IXquick is quite good too. When I started to use it, I did some comparison searches with Google and found it compared quite well on searching ability and of course it is 100% better on not passing my search details to Google.

  6. Ian Easson

    Why is Google Getting Special Treatment?

    I don't get it.

    Both Microsoft and Intel had to cough up billions in fines for PAST indiscretions in Europe, in addition to changing their business practices. But Google gets to only change it business practices, with no multi-billion fine for its past behavior?

  7. pacman7de
    WTF?

    Industry foes and Google ..

    "In a letter – seen by The Register – addressed to the European Commission's vice president, EU politicos Ramon Tremosa and Andreas Schwab asked Almunia to appear in front of the EU's economics and monetary affairs committee to tell MEPs why he had now reached an agreement with Mountain View after having rejected two previous offers from the company."

    I figured Microsoft would try and have the agreement rescinded. What I didn't see was how, but questioning the credentials of the committee comes straight out of the Microsoft playbook. I recall where a Judge spoke to the press in confidence, and then on the eve of losing the case Microsoft duely leaked this to the media called in to question the impartiality of the Judge - for speaking to the press.

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