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10 December 2020 / article

European Court of Auditors encourages European Commission to tighten the screws on ‘Big Tech’

In a critical report about the effectiveness of EU competition law enforcement, the European Court of Auditors encourages European Commission to tighten the screws on ‘Big Tech’. In our regular blog for Kluwer, Loyens & Loeff discusses where things currently stand and could be heading.

The Court of Auditors believes that the introduction of new instruments should go hand in hand with stricter enforcement of existing instruments

In a Special Report published on 19 November 2020, the European Court of Auditors (the ‘Court’) makes a plea for more stringent enforcement of EU competition policy.

The Court believes that the Commission’s antitrust proceedings in the past years have taken too long, in particular in tech cases. Especially investigations in the tech sector prove to be complex and therefore took a considerable amount of time. Traditional assumptions of effective competition needed to be adapted and the effectiveness of the existing legal tools for intervention had to be evaluated. The Court believes that if takes too long for the Commission to adopt a decision, that may negatively affect that decision’s effectiveness. One could for example imagine rivals of an already dominant platform weakening or even being driven off the market pending a lengthy investigation, thus causing that market to ‘tip’. Restoring effective competition in such a market may prove difficult or even impossible. The Court therefore recommends the Commission to invest massively in market research to minimalise if not close the gap with ‘Big Tech’.

Recommendations

The Court concludes its report with four concrete recommendations to the Commission: 

  • Recommendation 1 – Increase the probability of detecting infringements.
  • Recommendation 2 – Increase the effectiveness of competition enforcement.
  • Recommendation 3 – Better use the potential of the European Competition Network.
  • Recommendation 4 – Improve performance reporting.

Interested? Read much more in our Kluwer blog.

What can Loyens & Loeff do for you?

Digital technologies present companies with many online and offline business opportunities. However, they also bring about a whole new range of tax and legal challenges, from competition and intellectual property issues, to data protection and privacy questions. Loyens & Loeff has a dedicated and multidisciplinary Digital Economy Team. This firm-wide team unites top experts from our various practice groups in all of our jurisdictions. Our integrated and dynamic approach guarantees high-end and efficient solutions for our clients covering all relevant legal and tax aspects of their business.

Over the past few years, the competition specialists in our Digital Economy Team have represented a broad variety of technology companies, from major online platforms to smaller but innovative start-ups. In this respect we have developed an impressive track record in providing legal advice on several technology related topics, such as digital commerce, block chain, fin-tech and big data.

It is our forward thinking and practical advice that helps our clients to stay ahead in the digital world and to find solutions to any (potential) competition problems that arise. In the context of our focus on the tech sector and our aim of thought leadership, we published our handbook Digital Competition Law in Europe: A Concise Guide (Kluwer), in September 2019. This book aims to be an indispensable guide to quickly and accessibly acquiring in-depth knowledge in competition law in the digital sector, and a must-read for any practitioner or academic who encounters competition law related to digital markets. According to Kluwer, this book is ‘one of [its] most significant publications of recent years’.



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