European Parliament Votes to Break Up Google

Christopher Patey
Eric Schmidt

The nonbinding motion, approved Thursday, proposes splitting Google's main search engine from its other services

The European Parliament on Thursday approved a controversial motion calling for the breakup of Google in response to the Internet giant's dominant market position. A Google representative contacted by THR declined to comment.

The motion is largely symbolic as the EU parliament has no direct power to force Google to change its business practices. However, the vote, which saw 384 members of the European Parliament support the motion, compared to 174 people opposing it, will put pressure on the European Commission, the EU's executive body, to act against Google as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and others have suggested.

The European Commission has had Google in its sights since 2010, when it began an investigation into how the company works and whether its dominant position — Google accounts for 90 percent of the online search market in Europe — has resulted in illegal, anticompetitive practices.

Google has made three proposed settlements aimed at ending the case, but all were rejected by the Commission, the latest in September.

Read More Europe's Anti-Trust Watchdog Demands More Concessions from Google

The motion approved by the EU parliament on Thursday includes a proposal to "unbundle" or split Google's search business from its other services, potentially including its Android smartphone operating system.

U.S. politicians have been staunch in their support of Google. A bipartisan letter from senior Senate and House of Representatives figures warned against the motion, saying it could have a negative effect on the broader trade relations between the U.S. and the EU.

All eyes will now be on the European Commission, which could increase pressure on Google to reach a new settlement, or could even take the Internet giant to court to try and prove anticompetitive practices. If successful in court — a big if — the Commission could force Google to break up its European operations and could potentially impose a fine on Google of up to 10 percent of the company's global revenue.

Twitter: @sroxborough