On the morning of May 14, EU competition officials raided oil companies BP, Shell, Statoil and oil price agency Platts, in search of evidence for price colluding. Suspicions are they´ve been fixing the price for crude oil for at least ten years.
While we´re waiting for the investigation to tell us if they´re guilty or not (Yes, yes, we are all thinking the same thing here), we can send a happy thought to the lawmakers that decided Europe needs a competition authority with sharp teeth, taking on the really, really big guys.
Who is taking on the big banks?
The EU competition people are. They´re investigating the Libor set-up whereby big banks (Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Deutsche Bank, Rabobank…) have been colluding to arrange the interest rates on loans so it benefits them… at the same time of course, hurting everyone who has taken out a mortgage to buy a home.
Both basically had the same set-up. The big ones – banks/oil companies reported their transactions daily to an agency – Libor/Platts – that then works out an average interest rate/ oil price which more or less everybody in the business of money/of oil applies to their transactions.
Only they didn´t always report the correct transaction price but a number that they preferred to be used as a benchmark.
Too bad for the consumers. At least we have the EU competition people to defend our interests.
Who takes on Google?, the almighty American company that keeps track of us all when we´re on the Internet and uses the information for commercial purposes?
The EU is. Competition officials are investigating claims that Google uses its over 90% European market share to outcrowd competitors. Commissioner Almunia has demanded Google to address four points, including allegations that the company promotes its own specialist search services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.
Who has taken on Microsoft?, the world dominant in computer software.
The EU competition people did, already back in 2003, forcing the American giant to open up their software applications to competition, to pay heavy fines (EUR 860 bn) and just recently – another EUR 516 bn in extra fines for not honoring a promise to correct its businesses practices.
Who took on MasterCard and Visa, companies controlling the bulk of the trillions worth of credit card transactions we make every day?
You guessed it, the EU competition people. In 2007 both American companies were sanctioned for overcharging credit card transactions. Appeals to the EU court didn´t work for MasterCard, a heavy fine being the result and the Visa case was suddenly looking bad…
This was not even the first collision between MasterCard/Visa and the EU competition authorities and only last month we found out that it will not be the last.
You can hardly expect national competition authorities to fight these giants. This is what we need Europe for. Cheers to the Brussels bureaucrats!