European Commission is only just getting started with tech giants


European Commission is only just getting started with tech giants
Margrethe Vestager is tough on tech.
Photo: European Parliament/Wikipedia CC

Margrethe Vestager, head of the European Commission’s Competition department, has handed out giant fines to tech companies — such as Apple’s massive $14.5 billion bill in 2016.

But a new report suggests that Vestager isn’t done with tech companies by a long shot. In fact, the next several years could make the previous five look uneventful for Silicon Valley companies.

European Commission is getting more aggressive

A New York Times article writes that Vestager “envisions a more aggressive agenda” for moderating the tech industry. It notes that:

“Ms. Vestager, a 51-year-old former Danish lawmaker, is doubling down. She has signed on for a rare second five-year term as the head of the European Commission’s antitrust division, and assumed expanded responsibility over digital policy across the 28-nation bloc.

With the new power, she has outlined an agenda that squarely targets the tech giants. She’s weighing whether to remove some protections that shield large internet platforms from liability for content posted by users. She is also working on policies to make companies pay more taxes in Europe and investigating how the companies use data to box out competitors.”

There are few specifics in the article, aside from the overall sense that Vestager is looking to double-down on her moderating of tech companies. The European Commission is already looking into a number of tech giants. This includes the question of whether Apple is abusing its marketplace position with the App Store.

A hero or a villain?

“Some of these platforms, they have the role both as player and referee, and how can that be fair?” Vestager said. “You would never accept a football match where the one team was also being the referee”.

Unsurprisingly, Margrethe Vestager has been criticized for the way she has targeted some companies. In a rare moment of public annoyance, Tim Cook labelled the tax bill against Apple as “total political crap.”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said this June that: “She hates the United States, perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met.” In a newspaper editorial prior to becoming the UK’s current prime minister, Boris Johnson described Vestager as a,  “crop-haired … left-wing” character, “straight out of that Scandi-noir serial Borgen.”

However, she has also received plenty of praise among those who think she’s performing a valuable service.