German Official Says It May Be Time To Break Up Google… Just Because
from the huh? dept
Having already gone through antitrust investigations in both the US and in Europe, without facing any serious penalties (and having regulators more or less recognize that Google wasn’t doing anything anti-competitive), it appears that Google’s angry competitors are still going to keep trying. The latest is that a bunch of publishers in Europe demanded that the European Commission try again, while a top official in Germany, economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, announced that it was time to “break up” Google. Then, over the weekend, another top European politician, Martin Schulz, the center-left’s candidate to lead the European Commission after the EU parliamentary elections coming up shortly, argued that there need to be many more regulations on Google, because… well… because he doesn’t seem to like the company very much.
As always, when a company gets big, there are reasonable concerns about whether or not it may be abusing market power. But the problem here is that every time anyone actually looks into Google’s activities, they find no evidence of it abusing its market power in any way that harms consumers. Some companies tend to get upset that they’re not ranked high enough, or that consumers prefer Google’s competing services to their own. But there’s no evidence of consumer harm at all. The entirety of the antitrust argument against Google seems to be “well, the company is big.” And, for some in Europe, it seems to be “the company is big, and based in the US.” Again, that’s something worth watching, to make sure that Google doesn’t abuse its position, but for all the complaints, there never seems to be any evidence showing any actual consumer harm.
As for the argument about breaking up Google… well, good luck with that. I’m curious how Germany breaks up an American company. In fact Gabriel’s own spokesperson more or less admitted that Germany had no way to enforce a breakup, but that didn’t seem to be worth reconsidering the idea:
“With a breakup of Google the global dimension would naturally raise questions of enforceability,” Rouenhoff told reporters in Berlin. “Such a procedure would take a certain amount of time.”
There are times you think that Google might just be better off saying “okay, fine,” and blocking German IPs from reaching its services, just to see how the public would react. To date, Google has always made it clear that it would like to avoid that kind of gamesmanship. But, at times, you wonder if people realize what exactly they’re complaining about.