The Netherlands, Germany and France want stricter European tech legislation

September 27, 2021 by No Comments

While legislation is being worked on in Brussels to curb ‘Big Tech’, a remarkable request comes from The Hague: can it be a little stricter? In a joint vision document, the Netherlands, Germany and France call on the European Commission on Thursday to take stronger action against powerful technology companies. According to the trio, the recently presented plans do not go far enough and should be stricter on acquisitions in particular.

The criticism is striking, especially because it does not only come from the two most powerful EU countries, but also the traditionally liberal Netherlands has joined it. The Netherlands and France also sought each other out last year in the fight against the omnipotence of large tech companies. As European plans to regulate those companies become more concrete, the three fear that proposed legislation will not go far enough and will not be able to meet future challenges.

Last December, the Commission published its so-called ‘Digital Market Act’ (DMA): a package of additional rules to be imposed on the most powerful digital players, known as ‘gatekeepers’. To prevent large companies such as Facebook and Amazon from gaining and maintaining near absolute market power, they would have to meet additional supervision and requirements. For example, the obligation to share data so that the tech giants do not just keep it for themselves, or by making a payment service accessible for third parties, for example.

But in addition, the Commission should also monitor takeovers by these companies more strictly, Germany, France and the Netherlands believe. According to the three, there is “lack of ambition” in this area. Large companies often buy up smaller players to strengthen their power, so that their monopoly position becomes increasingly difficult to fight. For this reason, according to the three countries, all mergers and acquisitions by ‘gatekeepers’ should be assessed by an EU supervisor. Even if such a takeover appears to be of little economic value – after all, the value can also be found in crucial new technology or user data.

Greater role for supervisors

The three also criticize the proposed definition of gatekeepers: it could be tightened up to ensure that all powerful tech companies are covered while at the same time giving priority to the most harmful practices. “The effectiveness lies in the combination of measures for all gatekeepers and a flexible approach on a case-by-case basis by specifically intervening with the largest players,” said outgoing State Secretary Mona Keijzer (Economic Affairs, CDA) in a statement.

National supervisors, such as the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets, should also be given a greater role in the law. “Member States must continue to be able to adopt and enforce national rules, including national competition laws that govern the behavior of gatekeepers,” the three said. Earlier this week it became clear that the German regulator has started a competition investigation into Amazon and Google.

Ongoing discussion

With their appeal, the three countries want to fuel the ongoing discussion about European tech legislation. The package of new rules is currently being assessed by MEPs and the EU countries. Negotiations on the legislation can only start when both have taken their own position. It is already clear from the European Parliament that it still wants to tighten up the package, but fierce discussions among member states are still taking place, with home countries of tech companies such as Ireland and Luxembourg not just in favor of stricter rules. For that reason, it may take years before the new rules will actually be applied.