US tech giants such as Facebook and Amazon could face stricter rules as EU regulators look for evidence to curb their role as internet gatekeepers, information and service providers, according to an EU tender seen by Reuters. The result could force Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple to separate their competing businesses, provide access to data to competitors and open standards to them.
The European Commission, which said in February that it was considering legislation against large online platforms acting as “gatekeepers”, has launched a 600,000 euro tender for a study to gather evidence of such control.
The request, which lists Amazon, which is both a retailer and a market platform operator, and Apple, an app developer and app store operator, should examine self-recommendation practices and the possibility of forcing dominant companies to separate their businesses, according to the tender.
“A general, automatic rule may prohibit or limit any discrimination between these platforms in vertical integration in order to make a clear distinction between their role as the organizer of the bazaar and as a competitor in these markets,” the tender document said. Regulatory measures could require tech giants with large amounts of data and are not willing to share with smaller competitors to provide access on reasonable, standardized and non-discriminatory terms, the document said.
Citing the example of Facebook and its Whatsapp division, the document said the study should also focus on technology companies using data from one market to expand into other markets, making it difficult for current or new competitors to compete.
Another area of concern is information asymmetry, characterized by the accumulation of large amounts of data by social media platforms and search engines through free services, which has led users to become reluctant to switch to competing companies.
The professional news agency MLex first reported the bidding.
Kayvan Hazemi-Jebelli, a lawyer at the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), a lobby group, said the scope of the study was alarming. “The powers under the recommendations being studied by the Commission would give it broad discretion not only to protect competition but also to the benefit of competitors. He said. “A unilateral departure from the existing global competition law framework in this manner would create an unfair competition environment and potentially deprive Europeans of access to favourable services and functions”.
The Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications and Technology expects to submit an interim report within three months and a final report within five months.