Top EU official: Breaking up tech firms should be ‘last resort’

Greg Nash

The European Union’s top competition regulator said Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposal to break up large tech companies should only be considered as a “last resort.”

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition commissioner who has been cracking down on U.S. tech giants, said in an interview on the “Recode Decode” podcast that Warren’s plan would be a step too far.

{mosads}“We’re dealing with private property, businesses that are built and invested in and become successful because of their innovation,” Vestager said. “So to break up a company, to break up private property, would be very far-reaching. And you would need to have a very strong case that it would produce better results for consumers in the marketplace than what you could do with sort of more mainstream tools.”

Warren’s proposal, released earlier this month, outlined steps she would take to dismantle tech giants like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The 2020 presidential candidate is among critics who argue that the companies have grown too large and wield outsize influence over markets and political systems around the world.

The tech industry has pushed back on her proposal, saying it would hurt consumers and the economy.

Vestager, who is no friend of the tech giants, has hit Google with back-to-back multibillion-dollar antitrust fines for allegedly using its dominance in search and mobile operating systems to suppress competition. Another EU fine against the search giant is expected this week.

The EU is also investigating Amazon’s effect on third-party vendors.

In the interview released Monday, Vestager said she’s confident that tough oversight of the sector will continue after her term ends in November. She also said that if Silicon Valley sees her as an adversary she would consider that a “badge of honor.”

“I think what we do is a reflection of the fact that we want our democracies to set the direction for our society and not for the businesses to set the direction for our society,” Vestager said.

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