Are there areas where you think there can be more collaboration among regulators?
We work very closely with our US counterparts, both the DOJ and the FTC. If we start a competition case, and we know US colleagues are looking at the same things, we ask the companies, would you allow us to exchange information and talk about this? As soon as we have the necessary waivers, we can discuss theories of harm, how we see things, how to push for things.
It’s beneficial for us because the more clever eyes looking at a case, the better we do. For the companies, if it’s something that can be remedied, then maybe one remedy will work on both sides of the Atlantic. We’re different democracies, but we are democracies, and we can do more to work together to set the standards for how technology is being used and developed. There’s a need for that globally.
In the US, talk about tech competition often turns to China and investment by Chinese companies in the US. Is the same conversation happening in Europe?
Well, we got ourselves two new tools recently. One is screening of foreign direct investment to see whether investors come with the right intentions: to do business and make money, which is a good thing, or if there is a risk that public order or security will be undermined. The second is a tool to look at foreign subsidies. For instance, if there is a public tender for a bridge, foreign companies are not able to give attractive bids because they get cheap financing or subsidies. [The regulation, expected to go into effect next year, also applies to mergers and acquisitions in the EU.]
The EU’s Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Acttwo laws aimed at regulating online spaces and promoting competition, go into effect within the next two years. What will this mean for the everyday user?
If you look at the DSA, the internet should become a safer place and more similar to physical reality: Your consumer rights will be upheld, you will know that there is someone to complain to if what you buy is flawed, and things that are illegal will be taken down. The Digital Markets Act is a drive for innovation in the marketplace, so that smaller businesses can really make it. It will also give us information about acquisitions by Big Tech of smaller companies, so that we can check whether a target is something that actually ought to scale independently.
These new laws will give you broad power to probe companies and their actions. What kind of enforcement power will you have?
The process of building up enforcement capacity is ongoing. Brussels will be the sole enforcer, but we coordinate very closely with member states. We may form common investigative teams. National competition authorities can also enforce outside of what is covered by the DMA.
The EU’s last Big Tech regulation, the privacy framework GDPR, has been criticized for not shielding people as much as had been hoped.