Karl Johan Lier
Horacio Villalobos Corbis/GettyImages
In her six-year tenure as European competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager has set the tone for how governments can regulate the major tech giants.
As Facebook and Google acquire ever more power, Vestager has wielded competition law to impose multimillion and multibillion dollar fines to punish everything from Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp to Google favoring its own services in its search results.
She told The New York Times in 2019: “Some of these platforms, they have the role both as player and referee, and how can that be fair? You would never accept a football match where the one team was also being the referee.”
Her focus on big tech has attracted political attention. President Trump complained in 2018: “Your tax lady, she really hates the US,” to which Vestager responded drily: “I do work with tax and I am a woman.”
Vestager is enacting her digital blueprint for Europe, which involves taking on the US app ecosystems, regulating the development of artificial intelligence, and establishing a digital tax, among other policies.
In yet another sign she is willing to totally rewrite rulebooks, she opened an antitrust investigation into Apple in June, after Spotify and other smaller app makers complained of the 30% levy they pay to Apple on in-app purchases. The commission’s decision could upend Apple’s App Store model.