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Margrethe Vestager stays on as EU competition head in blow for tech giants (cityam.com)
150 points by jmsflknr 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments





As an European I am happy over this. It feels like companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook etc only really care about what the US Government has to say and it's good that the EU show these companies clearly that they have to play nice if they are going to exist in the European market.

Agreed; this is excellent news! A highly competent and principled government should be a considered a good thing regardless of where you stand on the whole "big tech" debate.

As a non-EU'er, the anti-trust stuff is sure hard to separate from the promoting EU companies stuff and EU politicians certainly treat it that way.

Let's see Vestager take action against Airbus after the WTO finds against them this fall and I'll be more convinced. Maybe they'll even take on VW Group.


Scania (VW Group) was fined €880 million 2 years ago.

https://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-3502_en.htm


This is good news. EU is the last stronghold against big tech becoming more powerful than Nations on the global scenario. America has had its own Chaebols for a while now, it’s just they’re not managed by families.

> big tech becoming more powerful than Nations on the global scenario

Can you explain further? I guess the "on a global scenario" hedge is to note that in any local context they're less powerful than even the smallest of local governments -- they can't fine or tax anyone, after all. They can't pass laws like all nations can, they can't use force like all nations can, etc.

But maybe you mean something else by "power"? Like they have more popular websites or something?


But will it affect the behavior of state owned or state influenced enterprises in the PRC? I guess time will tell.

General Electric comes closest to a US Chaebol, and they are mostly industrial with some finance attached and exited a lot of markets. Maybe Beekshire Hathway which makes everything from mobile homes to car lubricant.

EU will learn the hard way that this kind of protectionism is creating far bigger problems than it tries to solve. Soon all the big tech companies (read lots of jobs) will leave for greener pastures e.g. UK, South Africa, SE-Asia, AU.

No sane company will leave the second largest market and GDP area of the world, it would take a really lot to make them go to "greener pastures".

"Think of the jobs" is the ultimate callout of corporate defenders, while the EU is a huge profitable market for these companies they will stick around... Just compare to what happens in China, if that country still attracts tech companies then I don't think the EU will be shedding them anytime soon.


No sane company will leave the second largest market and GDP area of the world, it would take a really lot to make them go to "greener pastures".

That isn't necessarily true at all. The EU may be a large market, but that doesn't necessarily mean it represents a proportionately large contribution to the revenues of any given business that trades with EU customers.

For example, in the world of small tech businesses I operate in, I know of several examples who do offer their services to EU customers like anyone else. However, with hindsight, those businesses would have chosen to give up the relatively small proportion of their business that comes from elsewhere in the EU some time ago, if that also saved them the time and money they spent complying with ever-increasing levels of EU red tape. I even know some people who feel so strongly about this that they voted for Brexit because of it.


It seems to me that tech businesses really have an inflated sense of self-importance and a deep aversion to anything which might impede them from abusing people's (private) information.

It's unfortunate when people resort to stereotypes. It means the vast majority of businesses that aren't doing something shady get penalised for the actions of the relatively few that are.

I thought it was clearly implied in my comment that "no sane company [which has expressive market share coming from the EU] will leave the second largest...". I'm sorry to pick out on this but it's really tiring to go into any discussion having to state all of the intentions and disclaimers before making an argument just to avoid someone nitpicking on semantics and derailing from the main point.

Unfortunately, in any discussion about European politics at the moment, over-generalisation is the cause of much confusion and numerous misunderstandings. Sometimes qualifiers you consider implicit aren't obvious to someone reading your comment.

I'm writing this from the UK, where Brexit seems like the only political topic in town right now. The way the media reports it, and the way the government talks about it, you'd think we were a country full of large manufacturing businesses that do most of their trade with the EU, yet in reality most of our economy is service-based, the majority of it is SMEs, and only a relatively small proportion of our businesses do any trade with the EU at all.

I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you meant, but I don't think it was unfair to challenge what you actually wrote, given that many of the large tech businesses we were discussing up to that point do not in fact have the kind of ties to the EU that your comment was talking about, the EU does have a relatively weak tech sector, and the heavy regulatory environment is a contributor to that. This isn't just a nitpick. It fundamentally supports the position of the person you were disagreeing with and contradicts your own argument.


If this is protectionism, it is spectacularly unsuccessful protectionism. Google, for instance, has a higher market share in Europe than even in the US. Compare that to China where both Google and Facebook have a market share close to zero.

How exactly is not letting foreign companies break the law protectionism when you also don't let domestic companies break the law?

It's far more likely the jobs will leave the UK for the EU than vice versa. Presuming Brexit eventually happens, that is.

That's a few thousands employees at best, and not the kind of people that have difficulties finding a job. I don't think anyone is scared.

Employees will move to the UK/US/AU out of EU if Google moves out. There's no need to be second sort at a local low-paying EU firm if you can work at a company in a country that actually values your talent.

This is an astonishingly ignorant take.

You think the world of excellence in tech starts and finishes with Google? You think there aren't tons of firms in the EU that do real, quality engineering? Laughable.


If people in these regions want to be exploited, sure, good luck.

I don't agree with you, but you raised a valid point which doesn't deserve to be down voted.

Good. She has upheld her stance on antitrust matters and demonstrated above-average literacy with digital economy issues (for a politician). We should prepare an agenda for her to look at during the forthcoming EU commission legislature.

Although she failed miserably in her recommendation of the recent copyright directive (CDSM). The final Article 17 is a catastrophe.

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CEL...


Vestager as EU competition, Goulard as defense, Timmermans on climate. These are the ingredients for a strong EU, and it's good news for the world.

But they are balanced out by von der Leyen who doesn't have the best record from her previous duties...

Meh, she got a pretty thankless job, at an especially thankless moment, and it's hard to judge without having a comparison.

And the decision we're applauding here was her's. So she does seem to be off to a good start.


> Meh, she got a pretty thankless job, at an especially thankless moment, and it's hard to judge without having a comparison.

Her time as minister of defense isn't everything she is being criticized for. she earned the "Zensursula" moniker as minister of family.

>And the decision we're applauding here was her's. So she does seem to be off to a good start.

Yeah, lets give her the chance to be a good surprise by keeping up stuff like this decision.


Compared to the US tech sector, the European one is a completely different beast. For me it seems more like a slow moving, risk-averse and regulated behemoth, while the US tech industry likes to present itself as agile, risk-seeking and (kind-of) unregulated.

All major companies from the US already gained a huge competitive advantage by being first-movers and the resulting network effects, which are hard to overcome. The incentive for an average European citizen to switch from something like Google to Qwant is basically zero.

I understand the reasons for the EU to force taxes and regulations on tech giants, but this alone will not help the EU to invent itself anew. We're stuck behind and will be for a long time. You cannot change the culture through taxes.


There's "tech" meaning mostly "data-mining/advertising" and "tech" as short for "technology".

As long as the EU remains strong in actual technology, the EU doesn't need to reinvent itself on the spot. As far as being "stuck behind for a long time" is concerned, if it remains behind in corporate surveillance and privacy trampling, that's alright by me.


Uncomfortable thruths: US tech rules because risk capital is extremely cheap due to the petrodollar backed up by the planet's largest military force.

this is very true.

Also, the US has a corporate structure which is brutal in terms of competition. (and it has a less equal society as a result).


I don't think regulating antitrust and competition properly is going to suddenly inspire European-based tech companies, I think much like trying to move manufacturing out of Asia, there's a lot of reasons people found tech companies in the US, a lot of momentum to overcome.

But lack of competition even among US companies causes a lot of problems and harm for EU consumers, so I understand why this would still be a very big issue for them to ensure big tech is broken up... even if it just leads to new US-based competitors.


I don't know why the European tech sector lags the US's. I've heard the larger domestic market, runaway network effects in Silicon Valley, and it's status at a favorite country to emigrate to as explanations.

But, having founded two (small) software companies in Europe, I can assure you I have not once felt any significant impact of regulation. Stuff like GDPR is a nuance at best, employment, tax, data protection, and obviously anti-trust law all have exemptions for smaller companies, etc.

If you start a gas fracking business or want to clone people you'll run into trouble rather quickly. But putting X people in a room and building software requires negligible amounts of paperwork.


Compared to the US tech sector, the European one is a completely different beast.

To me it feels more like Europe doesn't have its own tech sector. The US and China both have many large tech companies with a market cap of $10B+. Whereas Europe has... Spotify and that's it?

There are still a lot of tech workers employed in Europe by the American companies, though.


I wish the EU was more focused on helping European tech companies become successful, rather than preventing American tech companies from doing things.

Those that are successful usually end up bought by one of the American behemoths. So what to do? An EU golden share, or Swiss style takeover restrictions?

For startups and those not yet successful, attitudes to failure, finance and VC tend to be very different in Europe than in the US, which I think is far more significant to success than the EU.


It is the EU's job to do both, but neither is done to the exclusion of the other. We are lucky to have such a privacy-focused federal body which can bring about change effectively. I'm thrilled at the passing of GDPR, for example.

the result of the GDPR was to increase Google's European ad market share[1]

and the massively increased compliance costs will ensure that no domestic small competitor will ever be able to challenge their position

that's some effective change

[1]: https://www.politico.eu/article/gdpr-facebook-google-privacy...


That's not necessarily a bad thing. Innovation and healthy competition in adtech space is a problem; the industry needs to die, not grow.

... What?

Mass surveillance for the the purpose of more targeted ads are bad for society.

Cool.

The point was that his comment was a non-sequitor. The EU strengthening Google's monopoly position will not make advertising go away.


No, but it will slow the innovation in that space, which I consider to be a positive development. It's on-topic, because slowing innovation is why people are complaining about Google's position being strengthened.

(Also, my perhaps naive hope is that the better the Google's market share here, the more damage will be caused by EU regulating the space.)


His point it seems, was that strengthening Googles position (by making it harder for competitors to comply) was a price worth paying for stronger privacy protection afforded by the GDPR legislation.



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