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Full transcript: Europe’s Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager on Recode Decode

“I think it's a completely honest thing to want to do business. ... But there is a limit to everything.”

Johannes Jansson / norden.org

On a recent episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Europe’s competition enforcer Margrethe Vestager said big tech companies like Google and Apple need limits.

You can read some of the highlights from their discussion at that link, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

Transcript by Celia Fogel.


Kara Swisher: This week we're running a bonus episode of Recode Decode because we have a very special guest. Today in the red chair is Margrethe Vestager, the Commissioner for Competition for the European Commission, which is the executive arm of the EU. Commissioner Vestager was formerly a member of the Danish Parliament from 2001 to 2014. Commissioner Vestager has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of U.S. tech companies, which are used to getting exactly what they want from U.S. regulators. Not from Commissioner Vestager! She brought formal antitrust charges against Google three times in 2015, something her predecessor had been exploring for several years prior, and most recently she brought a case against Apple for paying low, low taxes in Ireland and is looking to recover almost $15 billion in past taxes. Welcome to the show.

Margrethe Vestager: It's a pleasure to be here. And obviously an honor, too.

Yeah, exactly. You're here in Washington, correct? What are you doing here now? And then I want to get into your background because I think people don't know [you]. Everyone in Silicon Valley is aware of you, but ...

Basically I come to Washington a couple of times a year. Sort of on a strictly business basis, talk to my counterparts at the Federal Trade Commission, of the DOJ, give an occasional talk, very often in a lawyer or academic environment. And when I'm here of course I take the opportunity to talk to people.

Right. Regulators. Other regulators like yourself.

That'd be other regulators, that would be media, that would be people like you, because I think that any start of finding out new things and try to breach differences is of course that we talk.

Right. How do you find Washington?

Oh, I'm loving it.

Do you? Why is that? No one says that.

Well, because I have a trail that I jog while I'm here [KS laughs] and I think that the reflecting pond and the Washington Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial is some of the most beautiful man-made places.

Very moving. It's surprising, isn't it? Isn't it surprising how much it moves you when you seem them?

I think it was not last time but the previous time I was here, it had been snowing. And I was running in the morning, there was no one there and there was just this new snow that had fallen, it was still dark. And the Lincoln Memorial, I got goosebumps, and I felt this very strong presence of U.S. history and American culture.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, that's very nice. It's interesting you say that. When I told tech people I was interviewing you they had a lot of questions. They're very interested in what you think of America and American companies. But let's talk a little bit about your background. I think people don't realize, you entered politics very young, at a very young age. At 29, is that correct?

Actually even before that. When I was very young I took no interest in party politics. My line of interest was how can you be part of an influence to the society that you live in.

Right, you were an economics major, correct?

Yes, I was. And then I got sort of drawn into some more conventional politics and the social liberal party in Denmark. But my background, my father and my mother being ministers in the Danish People's Church, sort of gave this very fundamental value that you should take part in your community.

Right. And did you always want to do that?

Oh, no, no, no. It was just a matter of me not being able to say no.

So what did that give you? Your parents both being Lutheran ministers. Is that correct?

Yes.

What did that instill in you in terms of just being part of a larger community? You know, Denmark is a very different country than the U.S. and there's great social contract going on there with people.

Yes, and it's a society with a very short distance between people in power and the electorate. So you feel very strongly that you represent something, you have a real interest in what you're doing. Where I grew up it was a very open home. You would find that anyone who would come there, people who needed marriage counseling, people who wanted to get married, if there's been a sudden death, people who were very poor, people who were very well off, they would all come and be part of a very lively home where you find a lot of discussions but also a lot of engagement.

And then you moved — after university — into the party that you were part of. And you did a variety of jobs when you were there, correct?

Yes.

Can you go into that a little bit?

I was both sort of the organization or the head of the party. I did a number of different things in doing that. And then I became in '98 the Minister of Education and Ecclesiastical Affairs. Then we lost the election in 2001 and became part of the opposition. Then 2007 I became also the political head of our party.

You were very powerful.

Well, it very much depends. Danish politics is very very different from U.S. politics.

Yeah, yeah. I was trying to watch “Borgen” last night, which is supposedly partially based on you a little bit.

Yes, and the thing is that it’s actually quite a nice and actual portrait of Danish politics. And I think also sort of the Scandinavian atmosphere when it comes to politics. And I know that a lot of people appreciate it because it's another look upon politics than what you get from “House of Cards.”

Right, yeah. Well that's how our politics work. We're always murdering people right and left. That must be a horrible show to see from somewhere else. Imagining it, watching it.

It was a little too dark for me.

Yeah, you haven't pushed anyone in front of a train lately.

No.

Okay. So when you were in government, you did a lot of economic policy. And one of them was, at one point you were cutting benefits, which was quite controversial in Denmark. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because in Silicon Valley, people see you as not that. You were more tough than most Danish politicians.

What was important for us was to make sure that the Danish economy was sustainable, that we could stay in charge of our spending and our debts in order not to run into a situation where other people would want to take over. So we did away on a very very long transition period with a pre-retirement scheme, not for people who were run down by the job they were doing, but people who could work but who were able to retire quite earlier, rather than the age of I think 60 or something like that. So gradually we did away with that and now we have one of the lowest unemployment rates among senior members of the working community. I think the most controversial thing was that we shortened the period where you can get unemployment benefits from four years to two in order to challenge the labor market to be more open. Because one of the worst things that can happen — at least in the Danish society — is a long-term unemployment. It gets more and more difficult to get back into a job situation, and what we see is that also on your self esteem, your look upon yourself, your skills, your competencies, actually the damaging effects begin to take place already after six months. We thought from our part it was the best of intentions, but for quite obvious reasons by some it was seen as a very hostile act to people who were unemployed for a period of time.

So let's fast forward to going onto the European Commission. Obviously you could have been Prime Minister, you could have been anything. Why did you want to take this job? And you started off in a different job there.

The thing was that I had been a legislator in different positions for more than 20 years, and I found that it would be an amazing privilege to work more with enforcement. Because I, to a larger degree, I had this feeling that we put a lot of effort into creating new legislation but too little effort into implementation and too little effort into enforcing. And I think it takes, you know, it takes a lot of political leadership actually to implement and to enforce new legislation, because this is when we change.

Right, right. Well, you haven't been shy about that at all. You jumped right in. I mean, you had the competition job. It's called the Commission of Competition. What does that mean to you? Because people feel that it means different things, but from your point of view.

To me it means making sure that everyone has a fair chance of making it. To keep a level playing field. To make sure that you are challenged by equality, new products, prices, the services that you can provide, so that you have a fair chance of making it. No guarantees of course, but that you have a fair chance of making it even if you're a small company, big company, European, national, foreign, publicly owned, privately owned, so that citizen experience, that market is fair and open.

Let's go to the topics that you've been enforcing, because you could call yourself the enforcer, which is something that's irked Silicon Valley a lot, and even in an interview I did with President Obama, he talked about protectionism and things like that. We'll get to that in a second. But I'd like to go through some of the actions you've taken, because there have been a lot. And a lot of them are aimed at Silicon Valley tech companies and they've hit back pretty hard at you at the same time. Let's go backwards, I guess. Apple. Tell me about Apple.

Well in Europe we have three tools when it comes to fair competition. One is antitrust, one is merger control, and the third is state aid control. And the third you don't have in the States. In the very beginning of the European community, our founding fathers found that no specific company should be able to out-compete other companies with taxpayers' money in their back.

So these are special tax breaks.

These are special breaks, they are selective, they give you an advantage, which is not open to other companies. And this is the case in the Apple case that we find that through two tax rulings, Ireland has enabled Apple to be taxed very, very lightly on the profits that they themselves made in Europe and booked in Ireland.

It's 50 euros in every million dollars in profit. So you said, "If taxes are not being paid by some, then they have to be paid by others, and that is why it is not fair competition when some member states hand out selective tax benefits." Now, Ireland has a reason for doing this. They want to attract Apple, and they have a number of U.S. companies, it's actually well known for it. They look at these — and I know Ireland is opposing what you're doing — they look at these as ways to attract investment and jobs and things like that. What do you say when they say that to you?

I say, "Well you do that already." I think Ireland has the most attractive corporate tax level in Europe. It's 12.5 percent. And that in combination with having access to a single market of 500 million potential customers, very good infrastructure, also digital infrastructure, various school population, both in Ireland but also in general in Europe, and very high quality of R&D. So the reasons to do business in Europe is piling up. But tax avoidance should not be one of those reasons.

It shouldn't be a tool.

No.

Because tax breaks have been going on forever. For lots and lots of companies. Here in the United States, in different states when they move there, things like that.

Yeah, but I think you also have sort of a different culture. I think it's — or at least I've been told — that it's much more common that you negotiate your tax arrangements in the state where you have your headquarter or your activities.

Or you want to move it to.

And it's not the same thing in Europe.

Because?

I think, well, we have another tradition and another culture. Maybe also a slightly higher level of transparency. And as I said we have a very long-standing tradition for looking into whether some companies are getting selective advantages not open to the rest of the business community.

Would you be surprised that they would give a company like Apple better advantages? Or do you feel like everyone should get the same? Because Apple is obviously a high-profile company, its products are well known across the world, and they tend to go in places and get better deals than other people.

I think that any company should compete on the quality of their products, the prices, the novelty that they can produce, the services, and I do hope that companies grow on that basis because that would be fair competition. If you're in a situation where you pay, or your effective tax rate is so much lower —

Almost zero.

— than any other company, then obviously you have a much better position when it comes to compete with prices and everything else.

So, it was really interesting because Tim Cook is not really known for being outspoken or very difficult. I'm sure he's difficult to you, but he said, "It's total political crap," you saw this quote, "They just picked a number from I don't know where." Were you expecting that response from Apple?

Well, I don't do that kind of prediction.

Well you're thinking about it if you're going to ... I think it was $14 billion?

Yeah, but the thing is that it is obvious when you do casework like this that both the country in question and the company in question disagree.

Right. The U.S. Treasury did the same because they want the money also. Correct?

Yes, but we can come back to that. But the thing is that any decision that we take in the Commission can be appealed to the European courts. And that is an obvious reason for doing the casework based on facts and the evidence of the case, but also in itself. I think to do a robust investigation based on the facts of the case, that is the value of what has been going on for decades by now. And I think it is very important that you do not let the politics of the day or party politics, affiliation, influence that. Because when you want competition on the marriage, then you have to base your casework on facts.

So can you walk us through how you decided to aim at Apple? Was it just an egregious example in your opinion?

Well actually it was my predecessor who opened the case.

Yes, that's right. Several of them were like that.

Yeah, and he was able to do that because of information that came out through hearings in the U.S. Senate. Because it is no secret that we've been doing state aid control for decades. What was secret was the tax rulings and the Apple numbers. Because back then there was very little transparency as to how the company was organized, what they generated of profits, and how they were booked and taxed. So I don't think it was possible to do the case before the U.S. Senate hearing started, because that sort of gave the concerns that my predecessor then acted upon to open the case.

And you've been carrying them out, which is really interesting.

Yes.

So the U.S. Treasury also opposed what you're doing, largely because they want the money repatriated to the United States. How do you look at that, their objections?

Well we have two different tax systems, not that I in any detail know the U.S. tax system. But you have a more sort of global approach, where in Europe we would think that profits are to be taxed where profits are generated.

Right. In Europe.

And here you talk about profits being generated in Europe, and booked by Apple themselves in Europe. Which is why we think they should also be taxed in Europe. Then very often you would have tax treaties to make sure that you do not have double taxation, that you get a tax credit when you pay taxes in other countries. But then again it is important to make sure those tax treaties do not then enable double non-taxation. Because they actually have the opposite aim.

So where does it go next from here with Apple? Are you in negotiations with them? With the U.S. Treasury department?

No, the next thing to happen is for Ireland themselves to calculate the unpaid taxes. For the unpaid taxes to be recovered, put in an escrow account, closed account, and then the IRS have said that they will appeal the case, and then of course the court will start proceedings.

And where is Apple in this? What do they need to do? Besides object.

Well, that depends very much on themselves, but for us since what we do in this third tool of competition or enforcement, we deal with the government. It's the government, it is the state to whom we direct the decision.

What did you do when you were doing this? Obviously this is one of the most famous companies in the world. Some people called you a super heroine for doing it, others not so much, sort of the opposite. What kind of political pressure are you under when you pull out the big names like this, where you go after these companies?

We try to stay sort of clear of the politics because we cannot allow that to interfere with the casework.

But you didn't pick just any company. Apple, you must be aware.

No but the thing is that also we have taken decisions on Fiat, the European car company, and Starbucks, and a scheme where a number of European multinationals were involved. And to me the important thing is that citizens find that someone is looking after that, not only most companies, but all companies do pay their taxes.

Have you met with Apple?

Not after the decision, no.

Data is a big issue all over the world, privacy is also a big issue. You brought formal antitrust charges against Google and a number of issues around Android, around its services, antitrust issues around its services, and then most recently about its advertising practices. Talk a little bit about going after Google in Europe.

Well actually the thing is that what we are aiming at is a certain behavior. And the case started a long time ago with my predecessor.

Yet you again are the only one enforcing it!

Yes, again. It takes some time with the casework

You push buttons [laughs].

But the thing is that what the Commission acted upon then was complaints from a number of both European and U.S. companies who found that Google practices were harmful for them. So now we have three different cases and we have sent what we call a statement of objection in all three cases. First one is a case where we found that Google used their dominance in general search to promote themselves in a neighboring market.

In other services. Shopping services.

Shopping comparison. I think that triggered a number of the complaints that they found it was very difficult to compete in a market where Google was so dominant. Second case is a case about advertising. How can intermediaries be in this very valuable market where Google put a number of restrictions as to where should our ads be put, what number of them? And then we have the third case, which is a case where we have found that Android is being used as a tool to enable Google to stay dominant also when our search becomes mobile. Because Android is in my view a very, very interesting operating system. It's open source, a lot of good things can be said about it. So it's not the Android system as search, it is the way that it is used with manufacturers of original equipment in order to seemingly make sure that when you open the box and you get the firsthand experience, it's a Google experience, and then why look for something else.

Right, right. Well, I think that was the point of them inventing Android, I believe, to keep search going in the mobile environment. I think they don't really say that because I think they had issues around the desktop search dying.

Oh yes, but I think everyone has an issue with desktop search.

Well, Google would have most of the issue because the core of their business is that.

Yeah, but I think everyone is thinking about it. I think a lot of citizens very much appreciate it that now you can be on the go and [search].

Sure, absolutely. So you're saying they're enabling it so that they get the advantage again. It's all about the advantage.

It's a great thing. But the thing is that if you then adopt a behavior where you do something which is not by the book in Europe in order to stay dominant and not let your sort of competitive edge make you stay dominant, but your behavior, that are two different things.

So what are they doing precisely, from your point of view? They feel like they're innovative and they're the best. They have 90 percent of the market in Europe now, something like that.

Oh but obviously they are innovating. I am so old that I can remember the internet before Google search.

[laughs] Yeah, me too.

So obviously for a number of reasons it's an amazing company that has produced amazing products that have enabled a number of amazing and very good things. But what we have found in the Android case is that since it's open source you can do an Android fork. But it seems to be very, very difficult to find a manufacturer that would actually produce a phone for you to put your Android fork. And we have found that it was very difficult to get, for instance, the Google search, without also taking more Google services on board to have a full Google suite, so that when you open your box and you have the out-of-the-box experience, it is a Google experience. And then it's a one-way Google street, and it's very difficult to find a turn to go somewhere else.

Do you consider them to be like Microsoft back in the operating system days, where Microsoft had dominance on the desktop?

No, actually not. Of course you can find similarities between the cases but since so many things have changed before then I think there are a number of differences as well.

Such as?

Well, such as the environment where they work. It's two different companies with different behavior, different corporate cultures. And also the way we behave as customers, and the competitive landscape is very different from what it was.

The U.S. had looked into these issues, similar issues. And past. What did you think of that when they did that? The FTC, all kinds of government agencies, and then to me they rolled over quite a bit on a lot of these issues. They said they couldn't find proof.

But it is not for me and my services to redo what they do. And actually a number of things are different. Also in the Google market share in the U.S. compared to Europe, so even though we work together very very closely on a number of cases, of course we completely accept if we do things and they don't.

When we get into this idea of data, I think a lot of it is what if they paid for their services? What if people paid for services from these people? Would that assuage the problem if you got the Google services and then you got to pick what you wanted and paid for it?

Oh, but you do pay.

Well, yes, through advertising and other ways.

Yes, you do pay either by looking at ads or by giving up your data. I'm an economist so I know that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

No, absolutely not.

So you pay with one currency or another. Either cents, euro cents or U.S. cents, or you pay with your data or you pay with the advertisement that you accept. So of course you pay. And I think people have become more and more aware of the fact that their personal data actually do have a value.

It's being used by Facebook and Google and Apple and Snapchat now and others.

So people realize this, to a completely different level. And what we see in Europe is a huge proportion of citizens find that they're not in control. They distrust the companies to protect the data and I think that is very bad. Because then there is a risk of withdrawing from all the benefits of our digital economy. And in order to build up trust I think it's very very important that we enforce privacy rules, that we get privacy by design in new services, so that privacy is not just an add-on but it is very basic in the way you do the services.

Why do you not believe individuals can make these decisions for themselves? I mean, that's the U.S. argument: The U.S. companies' argument is that individuals should be able to make these decisions for themselves and regulators in Europe should not be the ones making that for them.

Yes, but I think then we have different traditions, because in Europe we have had a single market which has been sort of framed with democratic decision making from the very beginning. Democratic decision making on safety standards, environmental standards, consumer protection, privacy protection, etc., etc. So for us it's a very strong tradition to say, "Well, as a small individual in this gigantic market, you don't have to know everything yourself because there are laws to protect you, so that you can trust the market and the services that you use to be there for you." So for us it's part of the trust in the market, that we have this regulation. And the European parliament and our council passed legislations a month ago which will be in place by 2018 which will be simpler but also stronger in order to enable citizens to feel that they're in control.

Do you imagine there's ever not a gulf existing? Because the privacy issues in Europe, they have much stronger protections, there's much different cultural attitudes towards protections, and yet they've all embraced these digital technologies. Largely right now from the US. Is there a center place or not? Just that they have to live by your rules when they're operating in Europe?

Well, I think you have more things that play at the same time because you find that some U.S. companies are doing better in Europe than they do here. A lot of Europeans embrace these companies and find that they're great. I come from Denmark and there you find it I think more than anywhere else. Highly digital community, old as well as young people on Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, whatever.

Another company you're looking into, the data around WhatsApp.

Yeah, well, anyone excited about new opportunities. At the same time, then you find that there must be reasonable protection, that I own my pictures, my data, that I can control them. Who are they given to and what are they used for? And I think that comes from a very strong European culture of wanting to know that: I know who I am and I know my relationship with the people who sell me things, and I would like to be in control.

Why do you think these companies are doing things? Are they malevolent or do they just want to grab every piece of data possible in order to facilitate their businesses? How do you look at them as a regulator?

I think it's a completely honest thing to want to do business. It's a good thing to want to make it, first to make money and to be a success in the marketplace, to get the attention of customers. That's the very sort of basics, otherwise no jobs would be created. I'm not in the business of pointing fingers or blaming companies because I think for most companies it's a completely open and honest thing that they want to do business and they want to do great. But there is a limit to everything.

Probably not for them. Have you met them? [laughs]

In Europe we would congratulate anyone who is successful. And you can grow and you can be dominant and we have done that. But congratulations stops if we find they start to misuse a dominant position.

Why do you think they're misusing it?

First of all, we got complaints about it and then we found evidence which makes us think that they actually did it. And some of the consequences may of course be that the smaller companies may find that it's not any more worthwhile to try to do something new because they will never be able to show it to the potential customer.

Right, because Google and others are in the way. When I was interviewing President Obama I asked him about these different actions and he said that it smacks a little of protectionism. How do you answer that? Because all the Silicon Valley companies say the same thing, that Europe is being too protective of its own companies and that most of the tech companies that are competitive these days are U.S. companies, so it's an attempt to slow down inevitably more innovative U.S. companies. How do you react to that? It's not just me saying this.

No, but I take that kind of accusation quite seriously.

Of bias.

Of bias. Because one of our fundamental values is that reinforced competition law, no matter the size of the company, if you're publically or privately owned, if you are an EU national or you're owned by someone else in the global marketplace. And when I look into merger control, antitrust control, state aid control, I find no U.S. bias. That of course does not take feelings away, I realize that completely, but if you look at, for instance, in state aid cases over the last 15 years from 2000 to 2015, we've done 150 cases with negative decision where recovery has been ordered. And I think only a handful — 2 percent or something like that — ever involved U.S. businesses.

Which European businesses that are digital have you gone after though? Or are these just the big names?

Oh well, you find any kind of business because ...

I'm talking about tech businesses.

Yeah, but when you find state aid I think there is no sort of preferred taste, you would both find traditional manufacturing businesses just as well as tech businesses. But no, I don't think so. And I think if it was the era where chemical businesses was those who sort of set the agenda, who was the driving forces in the economy, well then you find a lot of German cases on our table because a lot of our chemical industry is German. I think it is much more because it is the new industry, it is where you find the driving forces in our economy, and that would also traditionally be where you find most antitrust cases. Not because they are U.S. companies but because that is where they are.

So you don't feel like you have a bias toward U.S. companies, when they shoot back at you saying that.

Oh no no, not at all. And I don't find ... what motive would I have?

Well, very recently in Britain the Brexit, too much regulation. Right now in this election here in the U.S. it's all about too much regulation, too much government, too much telling people what to do. And you can see those forces at work throughout the U.S. economy.

Yeah but you know, when I was a child there was no Harry Potter and the magic of Hogwarts. It was Laura Ingalls.

Yeah, “Little House on the Prairie.”

Which was the series I read over and over and over again. And the magic back then ...

[laughs] Commission Vestager loves America!

But it was magic back then! It was hard work, it was engagement in your community, it was fairness. And you know, I think these are very strong values for everyone to contribute and for everyone to do what they should in the market place, in the community.

So what do U.S. companies have to do to change? Because they seem to be just opposing you rather strongly, which I think is the first move of any company when they feel themselves under legal attack.

You find in the account of Apple sales international already back then, I think in 2003, a statement saying that they realize that they pay low tax compared to the Irish tax code as such. And obviously I think on that realization, it is a completely honest thing to place yourself where the tax code is favorable to any company and Ireland is 12.5 percent. I'm the one promoting it the most these days. And that of course you can have the advantages of a favorable tax code but that is another thing that you as a specific company getting a specific advantage, not open to your competitors, to other businesses, looking for funding or employees or whatever, and I think as part of the corporate responsibility is to make sure that not only most companies pay their taxes but that all companies pay their taxes. For reasons of fair competition.

Same thing around data.

Yes.

Now we've got to finish up because I know you have places to go, important meetings in Washington, but do you agree with the idea that Europe is hostile to U.S. companies? Or how do you put that back? Because I asked that question to President Obama, how do you answer that? You're not hostile.

I think it's very difficult to talk about Europe as one thing because you find different sentiments in different parts of Europe. I come from a country — it is small, I realize that of course — but where you find that almost everything American is being embraced. And in other countries you find a different level of skepticism, so that would be quite diverse. What member states you go to, what would be sort of the approach and the appearance. But I think in general if you boil it down, there is a great appreciation of shared values and a transatlantic partnership.

Are you technical? Do you use technology? What do you use yourself? iPhone, or ...?

Yes. I use iPhone, I have two. One for work and one for private things. And I try to, you know, stay on top of things, but having young daughters I realize that it may be out of reach to be as — what is it that they call it? — native in our digital world.

Do you use Facebook and WhatsApp and other things like that?

I use Facebook but not at all as much as I use Twitter. Twitter is my favorite media.

Uh oh, are you worried about what's going to happen to it?

No, not really.

Well we'll see. What if they get bought by Google or something like that? Perhaps you might have something to say about it. And your daughters, same thing?

Oh yes, they do. Sometimes I think they're breathing through their phones. But I think to a large degree all the bad things being said, it's a great enabler. Because it allows you to stay in touch and to have sometimes a very different relationship than we used to have back then when I was their age.

And last question: When do these actions end? They just continue through until there's either a settlement or a legal case?

Well, it depends very much on the instrument. If it's an antitrust case, we can do basically two kind of decisions. Either prohibition with a fine or we can do binding commitments, and as long as the company then honors those commitments there will be no fine. If it's a merger issue, we always of course try to clear a merger because we want to enable a business community to move on. If the merger is threatening the competitive environment, they may offer divestments to facilitate competition. And when it comes to state aid, well then unfortunately sometimes we have these negative decisions where the state then have to recover unpaid taxes or grants or interest. And if it's a very favorable loan. So the instruments vary, and they're very different. They all have the same purpose to enable fair competition.

Alright. Thank you so much, Commissioner Vestager, for coming in today, I know you're very busy and I appreciate it.

It was a pleasure being with you.

Thanks so much.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.