EU, MEPs reach agreement on new rules to control Big Tech companies

Digital Markets Act puts an end to the ever-increasing dominance of Big Tech companies most prone to unfair business practices, such as social networks or search engines

The European Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed new EU rules to limit the market power of big online platforms.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) will blacklist certain practices used by large platforms acting as “gatekeepers” and enable the Commission to carry out market investigations and sanction non-compliant behaviour.

The text, provisionally agreed by MEPs and Council negotiators, targets large companies providing so-called “core platform services” most prone to unfair business practices, such as social networks or search engines, with a market capitalisation of at least €75 billion or an annual turnover of €7.5 billion.

To be designated as “gatekeepers”, these companies must also provide certain services such as browsers, messengers or social media, which have at least 45 million monthly end-users in the EU and 10,000 annual business users.

EU lawmakers agreed that the largest messaging services, such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage, will have to open up and inter-operate with smaller messaging platforms, if they so request.

Users of small or big platforms would then be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps, thus giving them more choice.

As regards interoperability obligation for social networks, co-legislators agreed that such interoperability provisions will be assessed in the future.

Parliament also ensured that combining personal data for targeted advertising will only be allowed with explicit consent to the gatekeeper.

They also managed to include a requirement to allow users to freely choose their browser, virtual assistants or search engines.

If a gatekeeper does not comply with the rules, the Commission can impose fines of up to 10% of its total worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, and 20% in case of repeated infringements.

In case of systematic infringements, the Commission may ban them from acquiring other companies for a certain time.

“The agreement ushers in a new era of tech regulation worldwide,” said German MEP Andreas Schwab, the DMA’s rapporteur from the EP’s internal market committee.

“The Digital Markets Act puts an end to the ever-increasing dominance of Big Tech companies. From now on, they must show that they also allow for fair competition on the internet. The new rules will help enforce that basic principle. Europe is thus ensuring more competition, more innovation and more choice for users.”

Schwab said the DMA sets setting standards for how the digital economy of the future will function. “It will now be up to the European Commission to implement the new rules quickly. As the European Parliament, we have made sure that the DMA will deliver tangible results immediately: consumers will get the choice to use the core services of Big Tech companies such as browsers, search engines or messaging, and all that without losing control over their data.”

After the legal text is finalised, it will need to be approved by both Parliament and Council, andl come into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal, with rules applying six months after.

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