The new age of corporate monopolies

Margrethe Vestager is in charge of regulating commercial activity across the European Union and enforcing the EU’s rules designed to keep the markets fair

Margrethe Vestager wants to keep European markets competitive — which is why, on behalf of the EU, she’s fined Google $2.8 billion for breaching antitrust rules, asked Apple for $15.3 billion in back taxes and investigated a range of companies, from Gazprom to Fiat, for anti-competitive practices. In an important talk about the state of the global business, she explains why markets need clear rules — and how even the most innovative companies can become a problem when they become too dominant. “Real and fair competition has a vital role to play in building the trust we need to get the best of our societies,” Vestager says. “And that starts with enforcing our rules.”

Why you should listen

Margrethe Vestager has been described as “the most powerful woman in Brussels” — otherwise said, in European politics. As Commissioner for Competition for the European Union, Vestager is in charge of regulating commercial activity across the 28 member states and enforcing the EU’s rules designed to keep the markets fair — rules that, she believes, some big companies have been abusing. In 2016, Vestager ordered Apple to pay €13 bn (about US$15.3 bn) in back taxes. In June 2017, she fined Google €2.4 bn (US$2.8 bn) for manipulating search results in favor of its own services. Other antitrust cases are open against Google. Facebook, Amazon, Russian natural gas producer Gazprom, Italian carmaker Fiat and others are also on her radar screen.
Born in Denmark, Vestager held various ministerial posts in her country’s government before being appointed to the European Commission in 2014. Her politics are liberal in the classic meaning of the term: free speech, free assembly and free trade — but she argues that it can only happen if markets are free of undue influence and anti-competitive behaviors.

 

This talk was presented at an official TED conference.

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