Report: EU Antitrust Probes too Slow for Tech Giants

  • The European Court of Auditors made an in-depth report on the EU's efforts to contain large-scale technology in the past decade.
  • The report also urges the EU to find a way to intervene quickly.
  • The report recalls that the EU does not have enough capacity to deal with rapidly developing areas.

A new report by the European Union’s external audit agency stated that Brussels failed to restrain the suppression of competitors by large technology companies (such as Google and Facebook) due to its slow actions and lack of legal power. Ten years ago, Brussels launched the first antitrust investigation into Google’s online shopping comparison service.

The European Court of Auditors is one of the seven institutions of the European Union. It was established in 1975 in Luxembourg in order to improve EU financial management.

The European Court of Auditors made an in-depth report on the EU’s efforts to contain large-scale technology in the past decade.

The report states that antitrust investigations often take too long, and by the time the results come out, these large technology companies have already eliminated competition in the market.

After ten years, the verdict in the Google case, a fine of €2.4 billion, is still in the appeal process. The new report shows that the lengthy antitrust investigation “may have an adverse effect on the validity of the ruling.” The report also urges the EU to find a way to intervene quickly.

“The European Commission currently does not have any tools that can allow it to intervene quickly when competition issues arise,” the report author said. They also added that the EU usually examines competition issues from the perspectives of companies’ market share, prices of goods or services, and profit margins.

However, when investigating the influence of companies such as Google and Facebook, these standards “are not sufficient to define their market power and evaluate competition.” The report writes that in the digital market, companies like Amazon are both market platforms and service providers, while large online platforms may use their large user bases to make unfair terms.

The report recalls that the EU does not have enough capacity to deal with rapidly developing areas. In these areas, companies have grown so rapidly that large technology companies do “not compete in the existing market, but compete for an entire market, and the result is a winner takes all.”

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust commissioner, has admitted that she needs to find better remedies to ensure fair competition. Last week, she announced that she would initiate new charges against Amazon, but she also pointed out that she is willing to cooperate with the company to find a solution.

Google, LLC is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware.

On the eve of the EU’s new Digital Services Act, the relationship between the EU and large technology companies is becoming increasingly tense. The new draft is expected to be published before the end of this year.

This new regulation is the first major revision of the European Union’s management regulations for Internet companies in the past two decades. Large technology companies may be identified as “gatekeepers,” and will be subject to stricter regulations.

According to people familiar with the discussion, as part of the draft, large technology companies may need to be forced to share data with small competitors and may not unfairly promote their services on their platforms.

Last month, an internal Google document showed that the company was preparing to launch a radical campaign against French commissioner Thierry Breton. Breton is taking the lead in accusing large online platforms.

The report of the EU audit agency also pointed out that when examining the market influence of large technology companies, the EU needs to abandon the old ideas ten years ago. In the past, the EU used these ideas to initiate antitrust investigations against companies in traditional fields.

In addition, the “effectiveness” of regulations currently available to regulators also needs to be reformed.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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