The EU has fined Google a record 2.4 billion euros for abusing its dominant market position. European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager explains her reasoning and why she doesn't fear US repercussions.
DW: Observers have long said that Google was too big to take on. Is that the reason why you are now slapping this record fine on the company - to prove those people wrong?
Margrethe Vestager: No, I'm proving a case. Because our casework will have to rely on facts and evidence and the case law. And we have found that we can prove first that Google is a dominant company, and second that it has abused its dominance in the shopping comparison market.
This investigation has been dragging on for eight years. Are the EU competition procedures simply too slow to deal with the fast moving internet market?
It would have been great if the negotiating part of the process would have been successful because then the harm for competition and consumers would have been limited. That did not happen, so I had to take the case forward to the decision we have taken today. At the same time we have had the Amazon case. Within 22 months we have taken commitments to change the e-book market to allow for more innovation for German and English language e-books. And that we have done within 22 months. So I think there is no rule here, we have to just keep doing our job.
You took on shopping giant Amazon, we have the Google case now and you call that a precedent. What is it supposed to be a precedent for?
We found that Google is dominant, and that's the intuitive feeling but we have also had to prove it. And from dominance comes a special responsibility to be extra vigilant that you compete on the merits. And this is the starting point when we begin to look at maps, travel, images, the other Google services, where people are complaining that things are not right.
We all know US President Donald Trump's views on Europe, particularly the European Union. What kind of reaction do you expect from Washington?
It is difficult to have concrete expectations, but from what I know from my counterparts is the respect of the rule of law, of evidence, of facts. Because this is what I see when I see my US colleagues doing their work, and that of course is the most important expectation: What we have in common is that we build on the rule of law.
So there will be no "competition war" between Brussels and Washington, hopefully?
This has nothing to do with any of that, this is case work, this is anti-trust, and what we have found is illegal behavior breaching European legislation.
Margrethe Vestager is a Danish politician who is currently serving as the European Commissioner for Competition. She previously served as Denmark's Minister of Economic Affairs and the Interior from 2011 until 2014.
The interview was conducted by Barbara Wesel