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Germany urges Vestager to consider company breakups in EU antitrust reforms

Germany urges Vestager to consider company breakups in EU antitrust reforms
Germany urges Vestager to consider company breakups in EU antitrust reforms   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022
By Reuters

By Foo Yun Chee

BERLIN – EU antitrust rules should be beefed up to allow regulators to break up companies for serious breaches, German State Secretary Sven Giegold said on Wednesday, urging EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager to consider this when reforming regulations.

Rules known as Regulation 1/2003, in force since 2004, have allowed Vestager to go after Alphabet unit Google, Apple, Amazon, Meta, Microsoft and Intel, and impose billions of euros in fines.

Vestager’s proposal to reform the rules came as companies complained about lengthy proceedings and demands for information ranging from minutiae to complex data.

Giegold, state secretary at the German Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, said Vestager should be bolder.

“Market investigations and structural remedies should also be on the table for the upcoming review of the regulation 1/2003 that Vice President Margaret Vestager has announced recently,” he told a conference organised by the German cartel office.

Giegold said European Union merger rules could also do with an update to strengthen them, in particular against big companies acquiring smaller rivals to close them down.

“One particular area where we need reinforcement is EU merger control. The number of interventions in mergers has dropped over the years,” he said.

“Unfortunately, and to some extent incomprehensibly the European mission so far has resisted calls to look into the EU merger regulation and the underlying substantive guidelines to better deal with killer acquisitions. We need reform here,” Giegold said.

Giegold said the German government planned to give more powers to the country’s cartel office.

“We will look into giving more flexibility to the Bundeskartellamt in this regard in regard with its market internal investigations when reforming our national competition law,” he said.