On 16th March 2017 EU Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager made an important speech concerning competition policy for the technology sector. She spoke about the way that computer algorithms are being used in ways that could facilitate breach of the law. Her comments covered issues arising from the Google investigation, concerns raised about social media and, more generally the policy concerns raised in France and Germany.
“When an algorithm makes it harder to find rivals’ products, that could deny those rivals the chance to compete. And the result could be higher prices, and less choice, for consumers. That’s precisely the issue in our case with Google Shopping. We’re concerned that the way Google used its algorithms may have given its own comparison shopping service more prominent treatment than it gives to competitors.”
On social media:
The way that algorithms are used to make decisions automatically could even undermine our democracy. These days, social media is a vital source of news. One recent study found that nearly two thirds of US adults get their news this way. So the scope for social media algorithms to create an alternative reality, by showing people one story after another that just isn’t true, is a concern for us all.
On Competition and Policy more generally:
“….These programs crawl the Internet continuously, checking prices in hundreds of online shops. And these algorithms are very common. Our sector inquiry into e-commerce has shown that two thirds of retailers who track their competitors’ prices use automatic systems to do that. Some of them also use that software to adjust prices automatically. From the point of view of competition, what matters is how these algorithms are actually used…”
To read the full speech please click here.