EU lawmakers vote to break up Google

Google a 'monopoly' in Europe: Lawmaker
Google a 'monopoly' in Europe: Lawmaker   

European lawmakers approved separating Google's search engine from its other commercial activities on Thursday, as pressure mounts for the controversial "right to be forgotten" to be applied globally.

The European Union's (EU) Parliament voted on a motion to make the tech giant's internet search function independent and neutral from its commercial services, after debating the non-binding decision calling for legislation on Wednesday.

The resolution - which stressed that "all internet traffic should be treated equally without discrimination and that the search process and results should be unbiased - was passed with 458 votes to 173.

Google's critics in Europe feel that the U.S. tech giant enjoys a dominant position in the search engine industry – it currently holds an over 90 percent market share, according to the European Commission.

The company has also been criticized by the EU's digital commissioner, Günther Oettinger, who suggested a "Google Tax" could be introduced, requiring search engine providers like Google to pay a fee for displaying copyrighted materials on their sites.

Although the vote on Thursday is non-binding, it could put pressure on the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, to initiate legislation to curb Google's dominance.

Google has so far declined to comment on the issue when contacted by CNBC.

'We like Google'

The European Commission began an antitrust investigation into Google in November 2010 after a number of companies, including Microsoft, complained that the company was promoting its own services and products at the expense of others. A settlement between European authorities and Google was arrived at in February but was rejected by the original complainants and the issue remains unresolved.

U.S senior politicians have criticized the EU plan to spin search off Google and this week the U.S. Mission to the European Union said in an email to the Wall Street Journal that it "noted with concern" the call for competition regulators to consider splitting search engines from other Internet services.

Ramon Tremosa, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) and fellow MEP Andreas Schwab have been instrumental in the charge against Google, drafting the current resolution to break up Google in order to resolve competition issues.

Tremosa told CNBC Europe's Squawk Box" on Thursday that, rather than a punitive, protectionist measure against Google, Europe "liked" Google.

"We like Google, we use Google every day and we want Google in our lives, making our lives easier. But the problem in Europe is that Google has become a monopoly which controls in member states over 90 percent of the market. It's not like the U.S. where companies like Yahoo can compete on an equal footing. In Europe, Google is giving preferential treatment to its own commercial services and this means that European consumers do not have the best choice at times."

"European enterprises are being damaged and eliminated so this is why the Commission launched this antitrust case against Google four years ago but the solutions proposed by Google do not solve this…of course, Google is a private company and not a public service so it has the right to become the dominant force in the market but it's not (correct) that Google becomes the only enterprise and eliminates all the competitors in Europe," he said.

Right to be forgotten

Google has not only come under fire from Europe for alleged antitrust practices. In May, Europe's top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled that internet users had the right to ask Google to remove links that contain irrelevant or outdated information about them. On Wednesday, data protection regulators in Europe said the company had failed to fully implement the ruling and told it to apply the "right to be forgotten" laws to global versions of Google and not just in its European domains.

Read MoreGoogle axes 170,000 'right to be forgotten' links

"It's important to take a step back here and to look at just how many areas of contention there are between Google and the European authorities," Cyrus Mewawalla, managing director at CM Research, told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"Here we're talking about search neutrality but Google conflicts with EU authorities on a number of points – data privacy, for example, Google thinks it owns people's data but Europeans think it's their data. On data protection, the right to be forgotten, copyright breach and then there's the tax avoidance issues -- the Europeans thinks Google is underpaying tax."

"So Google's fighting Europe on a number of issues so this vote is not just about antitrust, it's about Google's behavior generally in Europe," he added.

- By CNBC's Holly Ellyatt, follow her on Twitter @HollyEllyatt.