EU competition chief on Google antitrust case: We're gonna need more time

THE NEW European competition chief has grabbed hold of the Google antitrust issue, shaken it and decided that she needs more time to watch things settle before bringing it to an end.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said that there are complex issues in the case, and a range of parties and concerns, and that she will need time to give them all proper consideration.

Vestager's predecessor, Joaquín Almunia, wrestled with the Google question and fluffed it three times. The last officially mooted date for a close to the investigation was summer 2014.

The new broom wants to sweep everything together and make sense of what is appropriate to base the case on, suggesting that she inherited more of a scrapbook than a casebook and a rather complicated web of information to deal with. The media is fingered for making the situation worse.

'Our current investigations involving Google are among the most discussed in the media. The sheer amount of data controlled by Google gives rise to a series of societal challenges,' Vestager said.

'Privacy is one of the most pressing concerns. Media pluralism is another. Not all of these challenges are primarily economic in nature and not all of them are competition related.

'So many of the Google related concerns voiced in the public debate cannot be addressed in our investigations into the company's alleged anti-competitive practices. We will have to limit ourselves to what we identify as competition problems.'

Vestager said that she had followed the case, even before she was lined up to run it, and understands that it affects parties large and small.

She explained that the first stage is to look at who is most directly affected by Google's practices, at least those that are up for debate, and that this needs to happen quickly and efficiently.

'To decide how to take our investigations forward, I need to know what those most directly affected by the practices in question have to say. I need to have a representative sample of the views of those concerned,' she added.

'Also, we are talking about fast moving markets. I have to be sure that we have all the facts up to date to get it right.

'In short, the issues at stake in our investigations have a big potential impact on many players. They are multifaceted and complex. I will therefore need some time to decide on the next steps.'

We asked Google to comment but have not received a reply. µ


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