The European Union’s flagship reform to tackle the power of the Big Tech platform, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), will come into force in early 2023, the Commission’s EVP Margrethe Vestager said, backtracking from a previously suggested timeframe. of this fall.
But he also hinted that crackdowns on rogue internet “gatekeepers” could flow soon after the regulation is in place.
“The WFD will come into force next spring and we are preparing for its application as soon as the first notifications arrive,” Vestager said today in a speech before the International Competition Network conference in Berlin.
“This next chapter is exciting. It means a lot of concrete preparations,” the EU competition chief continued. “This is about setting up new structures within the Commission, pooling the resources of DG Comp [Directorate-General for Competition] and connect [Directorate-General for Communications] based on relevant experience. It’s about hiring staff. It’s about preparing IT systems. It is about writing more legal texts on procedures or notification forms. Our teams are currently busy with all these preparations and we aim to present the new structures very soon.”
EU lawmakers reached political agreement on ex-ante regulation in March, paving the way for the full adoption later this year of a bill that the Commission proposed at the end of 2020, underlining the consensus that exists between the institutions of the bloc. of the need to stop the big technology companies.
However, there has been some concern that the Commission is not immediately ready for the new centralized enforcement role it is taking on as the DMA’s Big Tech “bailiff,” a role that will involve assessing whether platform giants adhere to the ex ante requirements. the long list of up-front ‘do’s and don’ts’, covering detailed (and sometimes technically complex) compliance obligations related to issues such as self-preference, FRAND terms, interoperability and portability, to name a few.
The Commission will also be responsible for taking effective enforcement action to quickly bring any controller in breach of the obligations online.
The tech giants that will be subject to the DMA have yet to be designated. But the criteria of “a central platform service” with a “significant” impact on the EU internal market; a market capitalization of at least €75 billion (or an annual turnover of €7.5 billion); at least 45 million monthly end users in the EU and over 10,000 annual business users, as well as an established market position means that the usual GAFAM giants are certainly in the picture.
Vestager herself has previously hinted that the task of effectively enforcing incoming rules against tech giants with so many resources will be difficult, citing, earlier this year, the ongoing tug-of-war between the Netherlands’ antitrust authority and Apple on App Store rules. so today’s comments from her may be intended to subtly correct any perceptions lack of trust in the Commission’s understanding of its mission.
The slightly longer deadline for the entry into force of the WFD also gives the EU more time to prepare properly, of course.
But more preparation times inevitably mean a longer runway before any enforcement is possible, which may redirect further criticism of the Commission, as any delay in tackling Big Tech breaches will evidently reinforce criticism that the EU failed to take mission seriously enough for legislation. have the intended impact of ensuring that digital markets remain (or, well, become) open and debatable Quick.
The regulation sets a three-month notice period for guardians to declare themselves to the Commission, and up to around two additional months for the EU executive body to confirm the appointment, so there will still be a period of several months after for the WFD to enter into force. before any execution is likely to flow.
In fact, it could be the fall of 2023 before we see any real fireworks. Thus, the Commission may quickly find itself drawing criticism that even its new ‘faster’ ex ante regulatory regime is not fast enough to place significant limits on the ‘move fast and break things’ Big Tech cartel.
Vestager’s speech also tentatively frames the EU as perhaps “slightly ahead” on the global stage when it comes to establishing “the future of digital markets” with a “hybrid approach…in which both ex-regulation before as the traditional tools of competition will both play their part”.
Is that a more subtle handling of expectations on your part? EU citizens can only wait to find out, but the decisive question is how long the Commission will leave consumers and markets waiting for the WFD to be implemented.
A large part of Vestager’s speech at the ICN conference also focused on the need for extensive cooperation among competition regulators to, as he argued, effectively address the challenges posed by digital markets, a topic he has often spoken before. Although cynics might say that linking the EU’s success here with global alignment to its regulatory approach smacks of proactively passing the buck, especially given the competition commissioner’s stated preference for less radical remedies to address platform power in digital markets versus medicine stronger than reality. breaking tech giants.
“For the next chapter, close cooperation with competition authorities, both inside and outside the EU, will be crucial,” he stressed today. “This is regardless of whether they apply traditional compliance tools or whether they have developed their own specific regulatory instruments, such as the German digital regulation. Close cooperation will be necessary because we will not be short of work and we will not be short of new services or practices to explore. And the efforts required on a global scale are enormous. So we will have to work together more than ever.”
Vestager suggested that cooperation is already happening as part of the preparatory work for the DMA, which he said will involve “discussing with national competition authorities our future cooperation under the DMA, as well as coordination between the DMA and existing national regulations.”
“Many of you will be watching the launch of the DMA with great interest. This will be a mutual learning experience. The EU has worked hard to find the right balance, and I think we have arrived at something that is hard but also very fair”, he also said, before educating his audience that: “It goes without saying that the more we, as a international competition community, we are able to harmonize our approach, there will be fewer opportunities for global tech giants to take advantage of compliance gaps between our jurisdictions.”