If I have a contemporary hero it would be Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner for competition who is proving a scourge of those bent on global dominance; that is, the IT mega corporations. They may not pay their taxes, but they do pay her fines. As the Times noted the other day ...
- Last year, she ruled that Ireland must collect €13bn from Apple which had benefited from illegal tax breaks that gave it an unfair competitive advantage.
- In May, she fined Facebook €110m for providing misleading information to the European Commission about its WhatsApp takeover.
- In June, she slapped Google with a €2.42bn penalty for abusing its position as the dominant search engine to promote its own shopping service.
- In October, she fined Amazon €250m for benefiting from another illegal tax break; and, announced Ireland is to be hauled before the European Court of Justice because it is still dragging its feet over collecting the €13bn — “plus interest” — owed by Apple.
She has an 800-strong team [800!] which, Vestager insists is merely applying the free market principles set out over 60 years ago by the founders of the EU. Like me, she avoids Google and uses DuckDuckGo as her search engine (it does not store personal data), and she deletes cookies every few days, as should we all. The price of liberty is still eternal scepticism and vigilance.