The New York Times has just published a lengthy interview with Margrethe Vestager, the head of the EU’s antitrust division. Over the past five years, Vestager’s team has been behind some of the biggest fines doled out to US tech companies, thanks to the EU being one of the few authorities with the political clout to stand up to the likes of Apple (fined $14.5 billion for dodging taxes) and Google ($9 billion over a series of antitrust violations). Now, Vestager is embarking on a second five year term, where she’ll have even more power over the trading bloc’s digital policy.
Unsurprisingly, Vestager’s relentless pursuit of Silicon Valley’s tech giants has ruffled some feathers, not least the President of the United States.
“She hates the United States,” President Trump said in a television interview in June, “perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met.”
Vestager’s unique position of authority makes for a fascinating interview, and it offers an interesting glimpse into her thought processes regarding recent complaints made to the EU. Here’s what she has to say about the platform vs player distinction, which was a complaint Spotify recently levied regarding Apple Music and the App Store.
“Some of these platforms, they have the role both as player and referee, and how can that be fair?” she asked. “You would never accept a football match where the one team was also being the referee.”
The interview also sees Vestager address complaints that the EU’s antitrust investigations take too long, and she says that she might use new measures to stop offending behavior sooner. Here’s how the New York Times reports her answer.
Ms. Vestager said some of the criticism was valid. She is taking steps to speed up investigations and is applying a rarely used rule known as “interim measures,” that acts as a cease-and-desist order for companies to stop acting a certain way while an investigation can be conducted.
The whole NYT interview is well worth a read.