French Watchdog: Big Fines Can Change Big Tech

Multimillion-euro fines can force Big Tech companies to change their behaviour, despite their deep pockets, the president of the French Competition Authority has argued. 

According to the Financial Times, Isabelle de Silva said she did not believe sanctions could be played down as merely “the cost of doing business”, breaking away from the consensus in the EU, where competition officials have struggled for years to contain the market power of Big Tech, despite levying billions of euros of penalties. “It is not my line of thinking,” she said in an interview with the Financial Times. 

“Fines are an element of the identification of what is wrong in the conduct.” De Silva’s comments come as the slow pace of antitrust probes and the apparent inefficiency of the fines have frustrated European regulators. In October 2019, the region’s top enforcer of competition and digital policy, Margrethe Vestager, said fines were not enough to ensure a fair playing field. In France, however, De Silva argues that the work done by competition regulators is having an impact. Since June, her office has hit Google with €720m in fines in two separate cases.  

The first was related to its advertising technology business, with investigators mapping out how Google leveraged its different roles in selling online banner ads to disadvantage competitors. The California-based group decided to settle and pay €220m in penalties in full with no appeal — a first for the search engine giant.

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