The world’s toughest tech regulator might soon be out of a job

Silicon Valley, rejoice.
Silicon Valley, rejoice.
Image: Reuters/Yves Herman
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Margrethe Vestager is arguably the world’s most powerful opponent of tech giants like Google or Facebook. She also thinks she might be out of her job by next year.

Vestager is the European Union’s competition commissioner. She represents Denmark in the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, and said during a news conference in Paris on Wednesday (Oct.3) that her government likely won’t let her extend her tenure in the EU’s executive branch. “My native member state doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about giving me another mandate,” she said, according to Reuters. “And that would be an understatement.”

The current commission’s term expires in 2019. Vestager is often floated as a candidate for the top post in the next commission, but her success would also be an unlikely scenario.

In Denmark, she said, the biggest party in government names the commissioner. The Danish Social Liberal Party, of which she is the former leader, is part of the opposition against the currently ruling conservatives.

Her anti-trust actions against Silicon Valley giants have earned her the moniker of “international regulatory celebrity” from the New York Times. During her tenure she has slapped:

  • Apple with $15.5 billion back tax payments in Ireland,
  • Google with $5 billion and $2.8 billion fines for abusing the dominance of its Android system and search, respectively,
  • Qualcomm with $1.2 billion, for abusing its market position in its dealings with Apple,
  • Facebook with a $122 million fine for misleading regulators over its purchase of WhatsApp.

She’s said in the past that she would have liked to stay on as commissioner to continue her work. The chances now, as she says herself, appear slim.

Vestager has been preparing to set an agenda for her successor, but whether the next person will be an equally strong voice for digital consumers depends on who becomes the next European Commission president, and who they decide to appoint to her post.