Regulating ‘big tech’: European Council agrees on enhancing competition in the digital sphere
The European Council agreed its position (‘general approach’) on the proposal for a Digital Markets Act (DMA). The proposal aims to ensure a competitive and fair digital sector with a view to promoting innovation, high-quality digital products and services, fair prices, and high quality and choice in the digital sector.
Online platforms offering core platform services – such as search engines, social networking services and intermediation services – are playing an increasingly important role in our social and economic life. However, a few large online platforms are seen as ‘gatekeepers’ between businesses and consumers, creating bottlenecks in the economy through their market power and control over digital ecosystems. This negatively affects fair competition.
With this proposal, ministers aim to create a level playing field in the digital sector, with clear rights and obligations for large online platforms. The regulation of the digital market at EU level will ensure a level playing field and a competitive and fair digital sector, so that companies and consumers can all benefit from digital opportunities.
The DMA proposal is targeted at gatekeepers who control ‘core platform services’, which are platforms where the identified problems are most prominent. Core platform services include: online intermediation services (i.e. marketplaces, app stores), online search engines, social networking, cloud services, advertising services, and more.
The main changes to the Commission proposal are the following:
- the Council’s text shortens the deadlines and improves the criteria for the designation of gatekeepers
- the text includes an annex that defines ‘active end users’ and ‘active business users’
- improvements were made to make the structure and the scope of obligations clearer and more future-proof
- the text proposes a new obligation that enhances the right of end users to unsubscribe from core platform services
- provisions on regulatory dialogue were improved to ensure that the discretionary power of the European Commission to engage in this dialogue is used appropriately
- to prevent fragmentation of the internal market, the text confirms the European Commission as the sole enforcer of the regulation. Member states can empower national competition authorities to start investigations into possible infringements and transmit their findings to the European Commission
The general approach reached today completes the negotiating position agreed by the Council and provides the Council Presidency with a mandate for further discussions with the European Parliament, which are scheduled for 2022.