High-tech bills slowed in Europe by parliamentary squabbles

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Attempts by the European Union to reduce the activities of large technology companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are progressing slowly, and lawmakers are struggling to potentially weaken and delay proposals.

The European Commission introduced two laws in December 2020, targeting Apple and other major technology companies operating in the European Union. While the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act offered ways to increase competition and reduce the power of technology giants, progress in enacting the law has been hampered by a struggle between politicians.

Disputes over rule changes could be enough to delay their implementation for years, he reports Financial Times, potentially until the current EU head of competition and digital policy, Margrethe Vestager, leaves her post in three years.

“It sounded like we agreed, but that’s not the case at all,” German MEP Evelyne Gebhardt said in a September debate. “We are far from a common position on this.”

The main dispute is over determining which companies should be affected by the legislation. While some, including the leading MP in the European People’s Party, Andreas Schwab, want to focus on the biggest platforms, others want to expand to leverage more digital services.

“If the threshold is too low, it would include a number of traditional companies,” Schwab warned. “But this law is not for the general economy, but specifically applies to digital door keepers who close markets.”

Schwab wants to go after companies with a market value of more than 80 billion euros ($ 92.6 billion) and target only the basic digital services of each company. Meanwhile, the Socialists and Democrats, the second largest group in the European Parliament, want to cover 50 billion euros ($ 57.9 billion) markers to cover video streaming services, music streaming, cloud services and mobile payment platforms.

“I’m afraid the new guards will increase immediately after you deal with Google and the rest,” said Dutch MEP Paul Tang. “We need laws that are resistant to the future. We have been waiting for more than 20 years to reform the Internet rules, so we will have to strengthen them in the next 20 years.”

Tang added that the legislation should also affect companies that offer more services “otherwise Big Tech will know how to circumvent the laws with its army of expensive lawyers and it will be a missed opportunity”.

There is hope that a resolution will be reached before the EU countries, the parliament and the European Commission gather at the beginning of 2022, as well as before the presidential elections in France in April. France holds the rotating EU presidency until 2022.

Europe is not the only region suffering slow progress in regulating large technology companies. In the United States, despite leaks of internal Facebook documents and increased control by lawmakers, it is thought a regulatory battle similar to the one against Big Tobacco could take years before changes to the law make a real difference.

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