Ford: Don't try to pre-empt competition inquiry

27-Nov-2014 @ 11:30

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Politicians should step back from official inquiries into competition matters and not attempt to pre-empt them, a senior British MEP cautioned today.

Vicky Ford, Conservative chairman of the European Parliament's Internal Market Committee, issued the warning as MEPs backed the possibility of obliging major internet companies to separate the operation of their search engines from other commercial services.

The move was interpreted by some media outlets this week as a direct political challenge to market-leader Google, which is already the subject of an EU Commission inquiry into alleged anti-competitive practices through favouring its own services in search results.

Conservative MEPs responded to the motion by tabling a series of amendments to highlight the huge potential of e-commerce and the importance of creating the digital single market rapidly to remove barriers to trade over the internet. A further amendment stressed the need for unbiased search functions and for the commission to prevent abuse.

Mrs Ford, Conservative MEP for the East of England, said: "The internet must remain open and all users should be treated equally. Increases in content have put pressure on providers who need to be able to manage traffic and we need to encourage further infrastructure investment. Nonetheless, anti-competitive behaviour in this sector is not acceptable. Players should not abuse their market position by promoting interlinked services above that of other players in a non-transparent manner. It is important that searches and results for users are unbiased and that internet searches are non-discriminatory. 

"However, this is a competition law issue and the EU commissioner for competition plays an important legal role in this area. It is important that this investigation remains independent.

"In the past, where competition laws have been breached, the EU competition commission has used many remedies including fines and ring-fencing or even asked companies to spin off parts of their operation. We must be very clear that voting through this resolution should not be taken as an instruction to the commissioner as what to do. It would be entirely inappropriate for the European Parliament to prejudge the legal process of the investigation."

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