France and the Netherlands call for tough EU powers to curb Big Tech

Tech

FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) apps on a smartphone.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

LONDON — France and the Netherlands have proposed stricter EU rules to oversee large technology firms, such as Alphabet, Facebook and Amazon.

In a joint document, seen by CNBC and due to be sent to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, the two countries suggested that an EU authority should be able to control the market position of these large tech platforms.

“Our common ambition is to design a framework that will be efficient enough to address the economic footprint of such actors on the European economy and to be able to ‘break them open,'” Cédric O, the secretary of state for digital transition in France, said in a statement.

“Access to data, to services, interoperability … these are efficient tools that we should be able to use, with a tailor-made approach, in order to tackle market foreclosure and ensure freedom of choice for consumers,” he added.

The EU, arguably at the forefront of regulation in this space, has intensified talks regarding Big Tech and the competitive landscape over the last 12 months. In addition to pursuing anti-trust investigations on some of the largest firms, the Commission is also working on data protection rules.

The team supervised by Margrethe Vestager, head of competition policy for the EU, is due to present a proposal on a new tool that will allow the institution to have stronger powers in overseeing the digital economy before the end of the year.

“The Commission is considering how to holistically improve the functioning of digital markets by using insights gathered during these (public) consultations,” a spokesperson for the institution told CNBC via email on Monday.

The Dutch and French proposal aims to support the Commission in the development of this work.

“The Commission is in the process of finalizing the larger evidence gathering process and remains committed to make legislative proposals by the end of 2020,” the spokesperson also said.

The Commission does not make legislation to target individual companies.

European Commission spokesperson

Any new proposal would have to be approved by the 27 EU governments and by the European Parliament. 

In the eyes of the French and the Dutch governments, the EU should stop these firms favoring their own services to the detriment of other businesses; and impose an obligation to share specific data.

Though the legislative process is not over, the European Commission has confirmed it will not target specific companies with its work.

“Let us clarify that no ‘hit list of companies’ is or will be drawn up. We are working on the basis of criteria which will allow to define in an objective way who the gatekeepers are. The Commission does not make legislation to target individual companies,” the same spokesperson told CNBC.

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