“It is crucial in our data economy that competition bodies more closely scrutinise the potential consumer harm of a merger between data-heavy companies,” said the BEUC director general, Monique Goyens. “The commission failed to do so when it gave the go-ahead to the Facebook-WhatsApp takeover.”
The European commission stressed the latest fine was unrelated to national antitrust inquiries. The German cartel office is investigating whether Facebook is abusing its dominant position by failing to inform people about how their personal data is being used.
Investigations are also under way in Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. A French data watchdog fined Facebook €150,000 on Tuesday for failing to prevent users’ data being accessed by advertisers.
Speaking ahead of the announcement, Vestager said she was closely watching the outcome of investigations by the German authorities and others, while noting that “in our legislation you can be dominant without necessarily breaking any rules”.
EU officials are assessing whether competition rules need to be updated to reflect the power of data-rich companies. The last big revision of EU merger rules was in 2004, the year Mark Zuckerberg launched ‘The Facebook’ at Harvard University, when WhatsApp founders were still working at the then internet powerhouse Yahoo.
The commission assess mergers using the metric of turnover, which critics say fails to capture the potential of a tech startup with zero revenues, but big potential. Consumer organisations are pressing for Brussels to take account of the number of consumers affected by a merger to assess whether it would create a monopoly.
In a recent interview Vestager said it was tricky to find an alternative metric to turnover, for assets, such as knowledge, patents or data. “We try to prepare ourselves to make sure we have the right set of glasses to make sure we can see what is going on when it comes to data,” Vestager she said in an interview.
“Data is a currency, it is a resource it is an asset and it will play an enormous role in the entire economy which is why with other colleagues here we are playing close attention to it.” Source: theguardian