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Google's CEO apologizes for the doc. The Breton EU warns that the web is just not a wild west

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© Reuters. EU proposes stricter controls on overseas shopping frenzy by EU companies

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From Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Alphabet (O 🙂 CEO Sundar Pichai has apologized to Europe’s industry leader Thierry Breton for a leaked internal document suggesting tactics to counter and oppose tough new EU rules for internet companies to appoint the European Commissioner.

Pichai and Breton shared a video conference late Thursday, the third of this year, according to a European Commission statement.

The call came after an internal Google document outlined a 60-day strategy to attack the European Union's push for new rules by getting US allies to stand up to Breton.

The call was initiated by Google before the document was leaked. Breton brought up the leaked document and showed it to Pichai during the call.

"I was not surprised. I am not naive. I thought it was a bit old-fashioned …" Breton told the Anglo-American Press Association in an online meeting on Friday, waving the document in the air.

"Anyway, yes, I had a conversation with Sundar … I told him what I had to say … he apologized. (I told him) If you need to tell me something, my door will always be open be, "he said.

Apologizing for the way the document came out, which he had neither seen nor approved, Pichai said he would contact Breton directly if he saw language and guidelines targeting Google specifically, said someone else familiar with the call.

Google said the two had an open but frank conversation.

"Our online tools have been a lockdown lifeline for many people and businesses. Google is committed to continuing to innovate and build services that can contribute to Europe's post-COVID economic recovery," spokesman Al Verney said in a statement.

The incident underscores the intense lobbying by technology companies against proposed EU rules that could hamper their businesses and force changes in the way they work.

Breton also warned Pichai about the excesses of the internet.

"The Internet cannot remain a 'Wild West': we need clear and transparent rules, a predictable environment and a balanced range of rights and obligations," he told Pichai.

On December 2nd, Breton, together with EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, will announce new draft regulations, known as the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act.

The rules provide a list of pros and cons for gatekeepers – online businesses with market power – forcing them to share data with competitors and regulators and not to advertise their services and products unfairly.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has fined Google a total of 8.25 billion euros (9.7 billion US dollars) over the past three years for abusing its market power to run its shopping comparison service, its mobile Android operating system and promote its advertising business.

Breton told Pichai that he would increase the EU's power to curb unfair behavior through gatekeeping platforms so that the internet could benefit not just a handful of businesses, but also European small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs.

"Europe's position is clear: everyone is welcome on our continent – as long as they comply with our rules," he told Pichai.

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Steven Gregory