EU to give consumers powers to sue tech giants in anti-trust cases

11 Jun 2013

A new proposal published today by the European Commission aims to give consumers the power to pursue legal actions against tech giants and cartels found to be behaving in an anti-competitive manner and abusing their market power.

The move could see internet giants like Google and Microsoft potentially be the target of court cases taken by private individuals seeking damages if they believe they are the victim of market abuse.

“The present proposal seeks to ensure the effective enforcement of the EU competition rules by optimising the interaction between the public and private enforcement of competition law; and ensuring that victims of infringements of the EU competition rules can obtain full compensation for the harm they suffered.”

The proposal points out that the enforcement of EU competition rules is best guaranteed through complementary public and private enforcement.

However, it points out that the current existing legal framework fails to regulate the interaction between the two strands of competition law.

Tech anti-trust investigations in Europe

Both Microsoft and Google have been the subject of anti-trust investigations in recent years..

An anti-trust investigation into Google has been under way since November 2010. In response to complaints from a number of companies, including Microsoft and TripAdvisor, as well as smaller competitors across Europe, the commission launched a large-scale investigation to review Google’s dominant market position.

Last month, the European Commission imposed a €561m fine on Microsoft for failing to make it easier for Windows users to choose their preferred browser. The commission ruled that Microsoft failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 until July 2012.

News of the new proposals for anti-trust legal powers for private individuals has been welcomed by EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes who tweeted: “Took 4yrs longer than I hoped. Today @EU_Commission proposes legislation so u can take private court action if victim of #antitrust violation”.

neelie kroes tweet

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years