First Click: Europe's case against American exceptionalism

April 15th, 2015

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In 2011, Eric Schmidt christened Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook the “gang of four” — calling them the most dominant companies in consumer technology. The Google chairman dismissed Microsoft at the time, saying it’s “not driving the consumer revolution in the minds of the consumers.”

Notably, none of these companies are based in Europe.

Worse yet, Microsoft — hit with $2.34 billion in antitrust-related fines in the EU over the past decade — bought Nokia’s handset business last year in a crushing blow to European pride. And Spotify is the closest that Europe has come to producing its own consumer technology megacorp four years after Schmidt's remarks.

The EU’s not about to let a bunch of Yanks ride roughshod over its member states. Today’s antitrust actions against Google are just part of its plan to create a “level playing field for all digital companies.” Europe’s also reining in tax sanctuaries exploited by US multinationals and rejigging privacy rules related to the handling of consumer data beyond its borders. Each initiative is clearly targeted at the gang of four+.

The US president is not at all pleased by this, classifying the moves as protectionist in a statement made in February:

“We have owned the internet. Our companies have created it, expanded it, perfected it in ways that they can’t compete. And oftentimes what is portrayed as high-minded positions on issues sometimes is just designed to carve out some of their commercial interests.”

Whatever side you take, the reality is clear: global competition is ruled by law and the game has now changed in Europe.

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