This week we discuss whether Margrethe Vestager's Time As European Commissioner for Competition is actually good or not. Also why have a competition commissioner exactly?

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Show Notes

Have you considered

Margrethe Vestager's Time As European Commissioner for Competition

Vestager is apparently the inspiration for Borgen - or the Danish West Wing as nobody calls it. A liberal who lead an aggressively centrist party and was referred to in the Danish media as the most powerful person in the government despite not actually being the leader. This secured her the commissionership for Denmark (or possibly they were trying to get rid of her) Trump has said "She hates the United States, perhaps worse than any person I’ve ever met.", referring to her as "Tax lady"

Bigger antitrust cases:

Google/Alphabet

Originally the previous competition commissioner had negotiated a settlement but the commission of the time rejected it so Vesteger inherited this one.

Back in 2015 the NYT ran a fun explainer on who the hell this was massively fining the darling of the US tech scene (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/16/business/international/margrethe-vestager-the-danish-politician-who-brought-antitrust-charges-against-google.html).

This )eventually has ended up as a record fine of over 2 billion.. which in effect makes the EU the worlds main anti-trust prosecutor in the world.

The case is largely overall market control and gets to a lot of what Elizabeth Warren talks about when she says she wants to break up the tech monopolies. Google can start a new service (in this case shopping comparision) and just show it alongside google search. If you use google to find flights instead of the airlines or flight comparison sites now you see Google's own service. Similar to the problem with the browser antitrust >20 years ago - it's not that your product is necessarily bad, you're leveraging your already dominant position to make it the default choice.

There was a separate €4.3 billion fine over Android being tied to Google services

Starbucks and Fiat

These are more on the tax end where they're "based" in Luxembourg and the Netherlands respectively but pay basically no tax... Going to the EU courts this week on final appeal (https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-eu-stateaid-fiat-starbucks/eu-court-ruling-on-starbucks-fiat-million-euro-tax-orders-on-september-24-idUKKBN1W528L)

There )are plans to do something similar with Ikea and Nike who do similar things (https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-competition-commissioner-margrethe-vestager-tax-crusade-faces-judgment-day-fiat-apple-starbucks/)

Apple

This )on is particularly egregious with Apple having worked out a deal where they pay far less than the actual rate of corporation tax in Ireland, which is already low.

It has it's own wiki page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EU_illegal_State_aid_case_against_Apple_in_Ireland)...

This )one is also coming to the courts this week.

Chris Johns (an Irish Times Columnist) writes that Vesteger doesn't appreciate Ireland's genius (https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland-simply-better-at-understanding-us-tax-policy-with-fdi-policy-1.4026414)

Qualcom

They )have a pretty unfair position of dominance in the mobile chip sector and the EU fined them ~900M over it

There are many more in the works...

Cyprus Airways

This one is where you could have some left criticism of this practice. Cyprus airlines got a second bailout from the government... but Vesteger found that this was in breech of the EU rule of one state aid per decade... and they'd already been bailed out in 2007 (https://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/09/us-cyprus-airlines-suspension-idUSKBN0KI1R920150109). )This put the airline under...

... which complicates matters somewhat.

What is the point of anti-trust and does it get in the way of a larger agenda?... and go...

Gasprom

Also messing with international politics over Gasprom's messing with pipelines and what not for transit countries