Regulation

EU Academics Say Tech Firms Shouldn’t Be Broken Up, Should Share Data Instead

Margrethe Vestager

A group of academics appointed by EU antitrust regulators say tech companies should be compelled to share data with each other, as an alternative to breaking them up, Reuters reported.

The academics, appointed by European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager a year ago to explore challenges the EU faces when dealing with digital companies, also suggested the need for faster-moving investigations when dealing with the quickly changing tech market.

“In the digital age, having the right data may be one of the keys to compete,” Vestager told a conference organized by the Romanian competition agency.

The academics said making it easier for tech companies to move data between themselves might be a solution to help regulate them.

“Requiring dominant players to ensure data interoperability may be an attractive and efficient alternative to calling for the break-up of firms — a way that allows us to continue to benefit from the efficiencies of integration,” they said in their report.

Vestager said she would review the report before making any decisions on what to do next.

Another issue explored was bigger companies acquiring smaller ones with the intention of shutting them down, a move called killer acquisition. The academics said regulators should clarify arguments of why that’s bad for competition.

They also disregarded the idea that some tech companies services could be considered public utilities, as Google has argued.

“We do not envision a new type of ‘public utility’ regulation to emerge for the digital economy. The risks associated with such a regime — rigidity, lack of flexibility, and risk of capture — are too high,” they said.

The academics hail from some of the most respected universities in the world. Heike Schweitzer is a Humboldt University professor of law, Jacques Cremer is an professor at the Toulouse School of Economics and Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye is an assistant professor of data science at Imperial College London.

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