Competition is more than a side dish

More from the ongoing saga of the side dish! On Friday, European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager gave a speech to the College of Europe where she hit back at unfavourable comparisons of the EU’s approach to digital market competition with the antitrust hipsters in Washington DC. I sadly found it disappointing.

Yes, the Commission’s “classic” competition enforcement (TFEU Art. 102 on abuses of a dominant position) is evolving. But the “narrow focus on price” Vestager attacks is a straw man. It was the ‘competition is a side dish to industrial and trade policy’ comment by her chief official that sparked the controversy at the conference where this started, where the US side was focused much more on the big picture, making antitrust a holistic part of a whole-of-government approach. (Ironically, most of the rest of what Director-General for Competition Olivier Guersent said was entirely sensible.)

Vestager is no doubt hemmed in by the distribution of competences with her fellow commissioners — but she is after all Executive Vice President for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age!

It’s good the Google and Amazon cases she mentions were brought. But if “an ‘effects-based’ approach is better tailored to market realities than a formalistic approach” — what impact have they so far had more broadly on digital (and other) markets? 🫠