Newspaper article International New York Times

Europe's Antitrust Enforcer Discusses Google, Taxes and the Year Ahead

Newspaper article International New York Times

Europe's Antitrust Enforcer Discusses Google, Taxes and the Year Ahead

Article excerpt

In an interview, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's competition commissioner, discusses the issues underpinning her current investigations.

Margrethe Vestager is having a busy 2016. As the European Union's competition commissioner, Ms. Vestager is expected to move ahead in the coming months with the antitrust case she filed against Google, in which she accused the company of favoring some of its own services in search results over those of rivals.

The charges, listed in what is known as a statement of objections, make up just one in a number of competition-related headaches that Google may face this year in Europe. Ms. Vestager is also investigating whether Apple and Amazon received unfair tax deals from Irish and Luxembourg authorities, respectively, that broke Europe's state aid rules.

Her aggressive positions have made her, a 47-year-old Danish politician, a symbol of Europe's somewhat combative ties with American tech giants.

Ms. Vestager sat down with The New York Times to discuss her priorities for the year, the issues underpinning her competition investigations and whether she unfairly targets American companies. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Q. What are your plans for 2016?

What's obvious is that it's not just important to open cases, but important to close cases, too. But as some of the antitrust cases we have ongoing are huge, that's not necessarily going to happen in 2016. I expect in the merger field we will keep busy, and we'll keep our focus on antitrust and state aid issues.

Q. The first anniversary of the statement of objections in the Google case is fast approaching. Have your thoughts changed on the issues at play?

A.Since we aren't done yet, we can't yet go through the different elements of the statement of objections. But Google gave us a very substantial answer, and what we need to do is ask them for more data to have a comprehensive picture so they aren't just giving us data that solely substantiates their position.

It's a huge task. We're doing our best with the analysis, but it's also interesting to see how legitimate third parties (that have filed complaints in the case) also look at it.

Q. Are you disappointed you haven't moved the case forward?

A.I have learned that to do antitrust at this volume takes the patience of steel. Speed is itself a quality because we have big companies whose names are being mentioned over and over again, so you have to think about that.

But speed isn't a quality unto itself. You can't substitute justice with speed. You need to be able to say this will hold up in court. Speed is a secondary issue.

Q. The current charges against Google are just one of many antitrust issues you're looking into at the company, including its role in advertising, as well as Android, its mobile operating system. …

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