If the European Union (EU) gets its way, the 27-nation bloc will have the power to split or force the sale of giant technology companies that threaten smaller rivals and their customers.
EU Commissioner Thierry Breton, who has taken the lead on the overhaul of its digital rules, told the Financial Times (FT) the proposals would prohibit large tech companies from a region. But he added such action would only be used in extreme cases.
“There is a feeling from end users of these platforms that they are too big to care,” he told the newspaper. “Under certain conditions we may also have the power to impose structural separation.”
Breton’s remarks come amid public hearings on amendments to the EU’s 20-year-old Digital Services Act (DSA), a measure crafted to strengthen digital services, foster innovation and competitiveness of Europe's online environment.
In Brussels, regulatory officials are considering a monitoring system that would allow the public to rate companies’ tax compliance and how quickly they remove illegal content, FT reported.
If approved, the new EU legislation would increase Brussels’ powers to track how these firms gather information on users. Breton said regulators in Brussels are preparing a list of activities that tech companies would be required to eliminate. Violators would be assessed penalties for non-compliance.
But at least one EU official expressed concern that Brussels must strike the right balance.
“Going overboard can also backfire and you score an own goal,” the official told the newspaper. “On the other hand, too low an ambition will not address the concerns [about Big Tech].”
Breton compared the tech company’s power over their big platforms to the banks before the financial crisis, noting they needed to be regulated.
“We need better supervision for these big platforms, as we had again in the banking system [after the financial crisis], it’s like for small banks and big banks you don’t have the same rules,” he told the FT. “You have more flexibility for the smaller players, and of course when you become a systemic [bank] you have a [different] set of rules."
Breton said he expects draft legislation will be ready by the end of the year.