Amidst a growing debate on regulation of the tech giants, there is only one person in the world of politics who has actually made a stand against Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook – Margrethe Vestager, EU Competition Commissioner.
Margrethe Vestager is challenging the biggest companies in the world and shaking corporate America.
Among her accomplishments are:
- Ordering Apple to pay 13 billion euros of unpaid taxes to Ireland
- Fining Facebook 100 million euros for misleading the EU during a review on WhatsApp acquisition
- Slapping a 2,5 billion euros fine against Google for allegedly abusing its search to favor their own online shops
- Ordering Amazon to pay back 250 million euros of allegedly unpaid taxes to Luxembourg
- Fining Qualcomm 1 billion euros for making illegal payments to Apple for exclusive use of their chips
Vestager is the only regulator in the world who has brought multiple enforcement actions against the major technology companies.
Unfair advantages of the giants
In a recent interview for Wired Magazine Vestager stated: “One of the things one should not misunderstand about Europe is that you are more than welcome to be successful. We don’t look at your flag, we look at what you bring, and if what you bring to the marketplace is something people like, you are more than welcome, but the thing is, that with success also comes responsibility.”
Here lies the problem: what are these tech giants really bringing to the market? Do customers and users have a full overview of the actual business the Big Four are operating?
Do users really understand what they are signing up to?
For example, on the one hand, Amazon offers the platform and fulfillment solutions for small and medium-sized retailers that otherwise would not have the access to tap into global markets, which is great for the smaller sellers. However, when Amazon taps into the sellers’ data, looking for trends, and then becomes a competitor of the smaller player, the scale plus the access to large sums of patient capital, makes Amazon unbeatable in any category they put their efforts into.
Margrethe Vestager has admitted that the EU has opened an investigation into Amazon to determine whether the usage of sellers’ data to create their own brands could be considered an unfair competition practice.
If you hold 90% of the marketplace, you should not misuse your dominant position, but using data to improve your services is a common practice, so when should it be illegal? Those are questions Margrethe Vestager is trying to answer.
What about China?
Could regulations in Western companies give an even bigger edge on Chinese companies?
Some argue that the dynamic between Western technology and Chinese technology is being affected by constant regulations of Western politicians.
We live in a democracy and our main goal is not to create the best technology as fast as possible but to create better societies, says Margrethe Vestager.
However, the limited presence of Chinese tech in the EU explains the lack of enforcement actions against them so far.
In the light of the latest happenings on Facebook, and the Chinese espionage scandal, I am relieved to have law enforcement agencies that are actually able to understand the problem and take action.