Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition and digital policy chief, has urged the European Parliament and European Council to approve rules to curb the power of Big Tech as a matter of urgency, even if they are imperfect.
Speaking ahead of the FT-ETNO Tech and Politics forum on Monday, Vestager said: “It’s important that everyone realises that it is best to get 80 per cent now than 100 per cent never. This is another way of saying that perfect should not be the enemy of very, very good.”
Vestager’s appeal comes after almost a year of discussions among EU regulators and legislators, who have struggled to agree on the fine print of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DMA was created to force so-called gatekeepers, such as Google, to ensure more equal terms on their online platforms, while the DSA seeks to clarify the way large online companies should keep illegal content off their platforms.
Vestager left open the possibility of legislators reviewing the new rules once they are enacted, which would mean bringing them before the EU Parliament and Council again.
“We won’t let another 20 years pass before we may revisit [the legislation]. With the parliament and the council’s position we can make a very strong rule book that can be enforceable soon,” Vestager said. “We have so many companies out there waiting and asking for a level playing field.”
The latest draft of the DMA was voted through by MEPs on the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) on November 22, ahead of a plenary vote in December.
The DMA would affect companies with a market capitalisation of at least €80bn — including Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — and prohibit Big Tech from ranking its own services above their rivals.
The DSA has not yet been put to a vote before the IMCO; however the draft proposals for it and the DMA were backed by the European Council on November 25.
The final step for the DMA and DSA involves a three-way discussion between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council to agree a common position before they become law.
On Monday a letter signed by the chief executives of 12 of the largest telecoms companies in Europe, including Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica and Vodafone, will call for “concrete and immediate action” from legislators on these tech rules.
Vestager said Brussels’ legislation will want to show “all these many businesses that democracy serves them and enables them market access”.