Press Release

OMI Joins EPIC and Civil Society Groups in Letter to EU Commissioner for Competition

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2018
Contact: Mckenzie Jones at [email protected]
 
Open Markets Institute Joins EPIC and Civil Society Groups in Encouraging EU Competition Commissioner to Move More Swiftly on Google
 
Washington, DC – This morning, the Open Markets Institute joined the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and Fight for the Future in the release of the following letter to EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
 
Barry Lynn, Matt Stoller, and Sandeep Vaheesan can be reached for comment at [email protected],[email protected], and [email protected].
 
“Ms Margrethe Vestager
Commissioner for Competition
European Commission
Rue de la Loi B – 1049 Brussels
 
July 18, 2018
 
Dear Commissioner Vestager:
 
We write to strongly support your decision today to fine Google for abusing the dominance of its Android mobile operating systems. Last year, many of us also endorsed your fine against the corporation for abusing its search monopoly to favor its own shopping comparison engine over those of its competitors.
 
We hope U.S. enforcers of competition law will follow your lead in both of these cases. In recent years, U.S. government agencies have been way too slow to enforce American anti-monopoly (and anti-merger) laws against powerful technology firms. As a consequence, competition and innovation are diminishing.
 
We also write today to encourage you to speed up and broaden your investigations against Google and other dominant online firms including Facebook.
 
These corporations abuse their positions as vital monopoly suppliers of communications and other services to concentrate wealth – hence political power – in their own hands. These corporations also abuse their dominant position as providers of essential services to other businesses and individuals to control what these parties say in public.
 
The most pressing issue is the growing power Google and Facebook exert over the online platforms where people exchange news and ideas. One result, as was made clear in Open Markets’ “Breaking the News” event in Washington on June 12, is a destructive diversion of advertising revenue away from trustworthy news organizations. Another result, made clear in hearings in the EU Parliament and in the U.S. Congress, is the abuse of these poorly run monopoly communications systems by foreign powers to spread propaganda and disinformation. These corporations have also acquired vast amounts of personal data with little regard for its possible misuse.
 
This concentration of power – over our politics, over our commerce, over our news, and over our private lives – is a direct threat to our fundamental rights and our democracies. Citizens across Europe and the United States need action sufficient to meet the scale and scope of this threat. The necessary next step is to break up these corporations and to impose non-discrimination obligations on the components, such as search, messaging, and maps, that resemble natural monopolies.
 
Under the current approach, the Directorate-General for Commission conducts multi-year investigations and, when it finds that a corporation has violated competition rules, imposes fines and mandates changes to business practices. While these fines and behavioral requirements can be significant, they do not, and cannot, restore market structures. Further, in the context of Google and Facebook, they do not, and cannot, guarantee a free press.
 
We admire the pioneering work of you and your team. We hope leaders within the U.S. antitrust enforcement community see in your courage a model for how to think about political economy and power. We look forward to working with you in the next stage of this effort, when we move from fining dominant firms for bad behavior to structuring markets to promote competition, innovation, and democratic institutions
 
Regards,
 
The Open Markets Institute
Electronic Privacy Information Center
The Center for Digital Democracy
Consumer Watchdog
Fight for the Future”