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EU’s Vestager defends enforcement actions at ABA meeting

The European Union’s top antitrust enforcer, Margrethe Vestager, defended her tough actions against major companies like Google during a roundtable discussion on March 29 at the ABA Section of Antitrust 2019 Spring Meeting in Washington, D.C.

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager addresses the ABA Section of Antitrust 2018 Spring Meeting

European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager addresses the ABA Section of Antitrust 2018 Spring Meeting

“Fair competition is not an original thought,’’ said Vestager, who levied a $1.7 billion fine against Google on March 20 for antitrust violations in the online advertising market, the third fine against the tech giant since 2017. “For me it’s about being both fair and (protecting) competition. It’s a way to talk about competition on the merits, on the basis of prices, quality, services and innovation. When people feel that the markets serve them in a fair way, then they feel empowered. The markets are there for the people and not the other way around.”

Vestager, who last month announced her candidacy to be the next head of the European Commission, was one of six antitrust enforcers on the two-hour program. She was joined by Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for antitrust at the Justice Department; Sarah Oxenham Allen, chair of the Multistate Antitrust Task Force for the National Association of Attorneys General; Alejandra Palacios Prieto, president of Mexico’s competition federation; Joseph J. Simons, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; and Rod Sims, chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The three-day conference is regarded as the world’s largest gathering of competition and consumer protection professionals. This year’s event brought together more than 3,200 government enforcement officials, private attorneys, in-house corporate counsel, academics, judges, economists and business people representing 60 countries to share knowledge about all aspects of competition and consumer protection law.

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