By Jack Denton
A position paper from French and Dutch cabinet ministers calls on regulators to take pre-emptive action against big tech
Two European cabinet ministers have called on regulators to take pre-emptive action against tech giants, including the option of breaking them up, in a bid to curb their power and control over the market.
Cédric O of France and Mona Keijzer of the Netherlands signed a position paper () Thursday that said intervention targeting "gatekeeping" online platforms is required to ensure fair competition and that users are treated fairly.
Their target is big tech companies like Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN), which they said are so dominant that they structurally act as gatekeepers for other platforms and on the use of data.
"Breaking up these companies (i.e. big tech) isn't an absolute value, but can be ultimately the result of competition control," said Keijzer in a statement.
Plus:EU has U.S. tech giants in its legal crosshairs ()
The paper outlines other possible measures, including forcing companies like Apple (AAPL) to allow users to take their data to other platforms. It also lists as a possible new rule requiring the likes of Google (GOOGL) to stop "disruptive self-preferencing" when they promote their own services over those of rivals.
The paper does note that "platforms continue to provide entrepreneurs and consumers with a large number of benefits," but that these benefits are diminished when there is little to no competition online.
O and Keijzer's joint declaration comes as the European Commission prepares broad legislation to regulate big tech, including rules on political advertising. Draft proposals are expected before the end of the year.
O is the French secretary of state for digital transition and electronic communications, and Keijzer is the Dutch state secretary for economic affairs and climate policy.
Their focus is on ensuring that users, including businesses, aren't overly reliant on dominant platforms and subjected to "unfair terms or behavior." The paper also outlines how smaller, innovative platforms can be prevented from entering online spaces dominated by a few companies.
"This may ultimately lead to a significant lack of competition as well as broader market failures stemming from users' inability to shop around on the market and pick the terms and conditions which they favor," the paper reads. "Let alone this negative impact on freedom of choice, these outcomes may cause major harm regarding innovation, price and quality."
O and Keijzer's position paper comes just days after a Financial Times report that the EU was drawing up a "hit list"of big tech companies that would be subject to new and tougher regulations.
Read more on this:Why the EU is drawing up a 'hit list' of major Big Tech players like Facebook and Google ( )
Outside the scope of competition, European countries have long targeted U.S. tech giants for their tax practices. Countries including the U.K., Austria, and Turkey have all proposed digital taxes within the past year, in an attempt to capture more of the revenues these companies generate within their borders.
More:Google is making advertisers foot the bill for painful new digital taxes ()
Last month Google said it would pass on the cost of these new taxes to advertisers, and in August Facebook agreed to pay $125 million to France to settle a long-running tax dispute that began with a raid on the company's Paris offices in 2012.
-; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 15, 2020 13:23 ET (17:23 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.