EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has become a de facto global regulator for US companies such as Google and Apple. Ms. Vestager, EU antitrust chief, is the face of the struggle to rein in technology giants after she had fined Google’s Alphabet Inc. €2.4 billion last June for abusing its dominance to clobber competitors. Her approach to firms such as Google and Apple Inc. is causing a ripple effect around the world, making an impact on regulatory action not only in the US but also in countries including Brazil, India and Russia.
The EU has in recent years established a reputation for being one of the world’s strictest enforcers of antitrust law. On the technology front, Brussels and individual European capitals have gone after firms in areas such as competition, taxation, privacy and hate speech. Europeans are also preparing a new, tougher, data-protection law. EU regulators are more and more interested in the potential abuse of algorithms and data. This is having an impact on the US as well, which has for years been ignoring the regulation of the Internet.
During her nearly 4-year tenure, Ms. Vestager has completed a number of investigations into US tech firms. While many probes were initiated under her predecessor, it was under her supervision that the EU fined Google, made Apple repay €13 billion (about $16 billion) in alleged unpaid taxes to Ireland, and this year hit Qualcomm Inc. with almost €1 billion fine for payments it made to Apple that Brussels said were illegal. Ms. Vestager is not very popular in the Silicon Valley where corporate executives complain that she is unfairly singling out big, American technology companies to make examples of them. She has also been criticized for being very interested in how her cases are covered by the media.