Friday 13 November 2020 2:51 pm

Google boss apologises to EU chief over plans to dodge antitrust laws

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has apologised to EU industry chief Thierry Breton after leaked documents revealed plans to attack the commissioner over new antitrust laws.

In a video conference last night, Pichai insisted he had not seen or signed off on the document and apologised for the way it had come out.

Read more: Google critics call for EU to fast-track competition crackdown

The internal document outlined a 60-day strategy to counter upcoming antitrust laws by getting US allies to push back against Breton, who is the EU’s internal market commissioner.

Breton told Pichai there was no need to use “old-century” tactics and to play one unit at the Commission against the other, Reuters reported, citing a person familiar with the call.

“The internet cannot remain a Wild West: we need clear and transparent rules, a predictable environment and balanced rights and obligations,” he added.

The incident comes just weeks before the EU is set to unveil new laws designed to curb anti-competitive practices by internet companies.

The Digital Markets Act will block tech giants from unfairly promoting their own services, while the Digital Services Act is set to establish a new framework for content moderation.

Breton will announce the new bills alongside EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager on 2 December.

Read more: EU to ban tech firms from promoting their own services in new crackdown

Google said Pichai and Breton had had a “frank but open” conversation.

“Our online tools have been a lifeline to many people and businesses through lockdown, and Google is committed to continuing to innovate and build services that can contribute to Europe’s economic recovery post-Covid,” it said.