EU’s Vestager warns companies against abusing algorithms

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By Foo Yun Chee | BERLIN

BERLIN Europe’s antitrust chief on Thursday
warned companies against using algorithms to block rivals or
form cartels, saying she may slap heftier fines on them if they
use such software to commit wrongdoing.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is
poised to fine U.S. technology giant Google in the
coming months for using its algorithm to unfairly demote rival
shopping services in internet search results, said she was
vigilant to such illegal practices.

“I don’t think competition enforcers need to be suspicious
of everyone who uses an automated system for pricing. But we do
need to be alert,” Vestager said at a conference organised by
the German cartel office Bundeskartellamt.

She pointed to the challenge of tackling sophisticated
cartels which use software to fix prices and allocate markets
among themselves to the detriment of customers and the economy,
saying sanctions should reflect and deter this new tool used by
companies.

“So as competition enforcers, we need to keep an eye out for
cartels that use software to work more effectively. If those
tools allow companies to enforce their cartels more strictly, we
may need to reflect that in the fines that we impose,” Vestager
said.

The European Commission can penalise companies up to 10
percent of their global turnover for breaching EU antitrust
rules.



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