by N. Peter Kramer
The EU General Court overturned the landmark 2016 decision by EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager that Ireland should claw back €13 billion in unpaid taxes plus interest from Apple. The Apple decision was the keystone of an EU campaign to crack down on tax avoidance and stop countries offering ‘sweetheart deals’ to multinationals. Vestager’s defeat in the appeal of the case by Ireland and Apple came at a delicate time politically. Her failure to win a case seen as a big European strategic priority put her not only on the back foot in the face of increasing criticism of EU competition enforcement from Paris and Berlin; it is also encouraging for other American big tech companies struggling with Vestager’s ambitions.
Technology giant Facebook is suing EU regulators after a spat erupted over access to company documents. EU competition enforcers have been investigating Facebook for practices related to the use of data in apps since last year, as well as reviewing how the company operates its online marketplace. As part of the EU’s ongoing investigations it has transpired that Facebook is appealing the Commission’s right to access thousands of “irrelevant” documents that contain “highly personal information”. The Commission’s request include such articles as employee medical records, childcare information and data related to private investments and insurance. Many of which would highlight personal and completely irrelevant personal information.”
Facebook challenged the Commission at the EU’s General Court, filing the complaint on 15 July, claiming that the demands go above and beyond the remit of the antitrust investigation and are in proportionate to what is necessary in the ongoing probes.
Does Vestager overplay her hand again?