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EU: Considers tough new competition powers

 |  July 2, 2017

The EU’s competition watchdog is considering tough new powers to intervene earlier in antitrust problems in an effort to avoid the type of delays it faced in the Google investigation. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, told the Financial Times she was looking at broader powers to impose so-called interim measures, which order companies to cease suspected anti-competitive behaviour even before there is a formal finding of wrongdoing.

“The French have been very successful in doing interim measures for quite some time and that is, of course, of interest to us,” said the commissioner. A move by the European Commission to adopt such powers would give the world’s most active antitrust authority a much wider range of options to impose itself on dominant companies and shape behaviour in fast-moving markets such as the digital sector.

The commission at present must prove a company is causing “irrevocable harm” before imposing “interim measures” — a high threshold that means it is virtually impossible to use. “If you have a tool in the toolbox of interim measures then of course you should consider why is it that it’s never used,” said Mrs Vestager.

The commission is watching other jurisdictions to learn how to have a “more workable” tool. “To boil it down, it’s not being used because of the very, very high bar of irreparable harm,” she added. However, there were no concrete plans to change the rules just yet. She said the commission “had a lot of thinking to do” and was still trying to be “rather thorough than quick in this”.

Comparison shopping rivals had asked EU authorities to intervene to stop Google’s behaviour years ago, at a much earlier stage in the commission’s eight-year probe into the search giant.

Full Content: Financial Times

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