France and Netherlands call on EU to regulate Google, Amazon and Facebook
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France and Netherlands call on EU to regulate Google, Amazon and Facebook

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France and the Netherlands called on the European Union on Thursday to create an EU Watchdog to regulate and monitor tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Concerns over unfair competition and gatekeeping (deciding who gets access to their network services) were raised in an open letter by the Secretaries of State for France (Cédric O) and the Netherlands (Mona Keijzer), with a call for EU intervention.

“These platforms can hinder the entry of new companies and limit the freedom of choice for consumers and entrepreneurs,” Keijzer said.

Users of online services for shopping or social networking by these giant companies are now “unable to shop around the market” and “pick the terms and conditions which they favour”, the letter reads.

“Let alone this negative impact on freedom of choice, these outcomes may cause major harm regarding innovation, price and quality.”

The EU should target companies that have a large online presence in the European market and sanction them when “users are locked in a platform” and can find no suitable alternative due to unfair competition, Keijzer and O argue.

To prevent such situations, the EU should be able to intervene and prevent unfair competition due to “a lack of access to inputs, capital and users”.

For example, Facebook is known to buy up or outcompete upcoming social media services. Popular apps Instagram and Whatsapp once were independent social media companies and are both now owned by Facebook. Around 2018, Facebook tried to buy and then “squash” the popular picture app Snapchat.

One possible intervention to prevent unfair competition online could be to forbid tech giants from using data they collect for business purposes in the EU, unless they make this data available to smaller competitors.

On 2 December, the European Commission will reveal its Digital Services Act, aimed at fostering “innovation and competitiveness of the European online environment”.

 

Amée Zoutberg
The Brussels Times