Protest against Amazon, a multinational technology company during the Covid-19 pandemic in Rome, Italy, on November 27, 2020.
Antonio Maciello | Getty Images News | Getty Images
When Italian competition regulators slap a large fine of € 1.13 billion ($ 1.28 billion) Amazon Last month it was the latest salvo in a series of moves against Big Tech.
Watchdog Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato stepped up its actions last year with a series of rulings against e-commerce giants. Alphabet Google and Facebook owners MetaTo give a few examples.
in the case of Amazon’s latest finesRegulators have raised the issue with companies that encourage Italian sellers to use their own logistics service, Fulfillment by Amazon. This said the watchdog was an abuse of the dominant position. What Amazon denies is the price.
Renaud Foucart, senior economics lecturer at Lancaster University in the UK, said the substantive financial sanctions would act against big tech companies as broader EU-level investigations could be “very slow.” He told CNBC that it was part of the trend of national regulators.
“Regulatory agencies want to show that they are active and that they are actually doing something,” he said.
AGCM is very active. Throughout 2021, some major US tech companies were fined. In another case Fines Amazon and Apple About the alleged anti-competitive cooperation. Google fined € 102 million for “abuse of dominant position” in automotive software products and fined Facebook € 7 million for data use in February. ..
The scale of sanctions varies widely, but there is a similar message. Regulators in each country will take action in their own markets.
But regulators like AGCM cannot help but challenge their rulings. Amazon will oppose the order and fine $ 1.28 billion.
“The proposed fines and remedies are unreasonable and disproportionate,” said a spokesman.
Maria Luisa Stasi, senior lawyer for Article 19 of the non-governmental organization of digital copyright, said that some national observers such as Italy, France and Germany are very strong against Big Tech. He said it was not surprising that he was taking his own initiative to act. ..
“Some European competition authorities are much more likely to go to sector and market research where they think there may be some problems, rather than waiting for complaints,” she said. Said.
It’s not a coincidence, she added. These studies are taking place in populated markets with more developed digital audiences and consumers.
“Many of the biggest cases we see in Europe today are somehow supported by consumer groups and gathered individuals, even if they haven’t started,” she said. “It’s a bottom-up push.”
However, she said there are budget, resource, and capacity issues, and that all forms of regulators are facing ever-increasing digital workload hurdles.
Especially for Big Tech’s vast and global business, sifting evidence and data requires large amounts of elbow grease that can strain budgets and know-how.
“If I put some protocol or code on my desk, I don’t know if the software was a cartel instrument because I can’t read it. This can slow down the process. a lot.”
She said she is in favor of regulators taking interim measures against companies, for example, by ordering the suspension or restriction of certain activities during the investigation, rather than waiting for the investigation to complete. rice field.
Other competitive watchdogs have set up expert units to deal with Big Tech.UK Competitive Markets Authority Accelerated my actions Last year, we set up a dedicated technical unit to investigate digital giants for large digital players these days. Most notably, CMA has warned Facebook about the acquisition of Giphy.
Something like AGCM acted on its own, but the dynamics of competition regulation in Europe, especially around Big Tech, are about to undergo a major overhaul.
The Digital Markets Act Is still pregnant, but is a radical set of new EU regulations approaching the finish line. It will be a top priority for the Council of the European Union, where government ministers meet to adopt a bill currently being led by France.
DMA strengthens the rules of the large tech companies (so-called gatekeepers) that dominate the market to prevent abuse. It will also strengthen the scrutiny of transactions related to M & A.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, conducts investigations into abuse or misconduct by these gatekeepers.
Luisa Stasi said capacity and resource issues also depend on DMA.
“Almost everything will be on the committee’s desk. Can the committee do that? Again, capacity issues,” she said.
In the meantime, other national regulators will continue to take action, whether in competition law or in other areas such as privacy and data protection.
“Germans were very active and French were very active in the past,” said Foucart at Lancaster University.
But many regulators need to give in over the long term, he added.
“If you find it [against] It’s one of those big companies and you’ll have to win in court later. They can sue at the European level. “
European regulators in Italy, France, Germany and the UK dominate Big Tech
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