Why France’s Antitrust Cop Is Wary of Apple Pay and Deadly Deals

By Gaspard Sebag and Aoife White, Bloomberg

France’s Isabelle de Silva may be about to become Europe’s most feared antitrust regulator as Margrethe Vestager’s term as European Union competition commissioner winds down.

De Silva, 49, was picked to head France’s antitrust arm in 2016 and immediately grabbed headlines fining firms owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi. Since then her achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by those of her EU counterpart who doled out massive penalties to the likes of Google.

That may be changing as the EU readjusts amid a top jobs reshuffle in the coming weeks and as de Silva enters a more assertive phase of her five-year term as president of the Autorite de la Concurrence.

In an interview at her Paris office last month, de Silva said she’s set her sights on Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc.’s forays into online payments. She’s also wary of the power Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google could gain via their digital assistants.

But she also said that merger watchdogs need more power to vet so-called killer acquisitions, where big companies snap up fledgling firms and their ideas.

“There can be major competition concerns the instant new actors gain strong positions in the payment sector while also having strongholds elsewhere,” de Silva said, referring to products such as Apple Pay. “It could amount to existing dominant market power being strongly enhanced.”

She’s made the issue a priority for the next year and a half and is weighing a study focusing on fintech and payment systems.

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