After several bitter defeats, a Luxembourg judge largely upheld a record fine against Google for abusing its dominance over the search giant’s Android mobile phone operating system, before recently becoming head of the EU’s competition commission. One Margrethe Vestager won big.
Earlier this month, the European General Court gave Google its biggest ever antitrust violation for its “unlawful restrictions on manufacturers of Android mobile devices and mobile network operators” in order to increase its dominant position. The judgment largely upheld Vestager’s decision to impose a fine.
Vestager celebrated its victory by saying it puts Brussels in a position to “blaze a trail” for new digital regulations designed to open up markets and foster competition.
Google will likely appeal the European Court of Justice’s ruling, but the EU victory was a milestone in a decade of antitrust enforcement against tech giants. It was also a push for new rules aimed at curbing the power of Silicon Valley within the block.
“This is a win on the principle that EU regulators can go after big tech companies, mostly based in the US, and impose hefty fines,” said a partner at Brussels-based Linklaters. said Annamaria Mangiaracina,
After losing massive lawsuits against Intel and Qualcomm, senior regulators said that if Google’s ruling had gone in the opposite direction, the current investigation into alleged anti-competitive conduct would be dramatically slowed or already I was afraid it would stop when I was in great danger. Pressure to act quickly.
“This is reason to celebrate,” said a relieved official, pointing to existing investigations into Apple, Amazon, Facebook owners Meta and Google.
This precedes the Digital Markets Act and aims, among other things, to clarify in the law what is considered anti-competitive behavior by big tech, making it easier for Brussels to take action. It targets so-called gatekeepers, i.e. companies with more than 45 million monthly active users or 10,000 annual business users. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft all meet this criteria, as do other groups such as accommodation site Booking.com and his e-commerce group Alibaba.
Inevitably, implementing DMA raises legal issues. Big tech platforms may deploy large armies of highly aggressive lawyers to avoid getting caught up in the new rules or to limit their legal burden.
Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and now Global Affairs President of Meta, said during the drafting of the DMA, “there is a risk that the mechanics of a product will become fossilized, hindering the constant iteration and experimentation that drives technological progress.” There is.”
One key part of the law is to completely prohibit companies from ranking their services over their competitors and limit their use of data collected from their competitors. This is bad news for business models that have relied on the ability to leverage a dominant position to gain a foothold in the digital marketplace, and the battle will be fierce.
“It’s not like a walk in the park,” said a corporate lawyer who works on behalf of big tech companies. “Offers a tough fight.”
Brussels regulators fear they don’t have enough staff to enforce new groundbreaking legislation on top of their long-running battle with big tech.
The MEP needs at least 150 new personnel to devote itself to implementing the DMA, but the Commission had only hoped for 80 in its original proposal. Legal experts are helpful, but the commission also needs technical experts to make sure big techs are compliant with the rules.
And Member States also want part of the action. EU countries are calling for a more prominent role in pursuing big tech by launching investigations and imposing hefty fines. Tensions are mounting about how much force must be exerted to curb .
Under new rules due to come into force next year, the European Commission will be empowered as a “sole power” with the ability to enforce regulations and choose when and against which companies competition investigations will be initiated. are concentrated. Yet a recent source of debate among regulators is how important a role Berlin and Paris should play in tackling big tech.
Alec Burnside, partner at Dechert in Brussels, cautions. “The challenge of effectively enforcing the regulations should not be underestimated,” he said, adding that not only implementation of the regulations but also new legislation “takes effect.” rice field.