EU lawmakers back rules to curb Big Tech

The European Parliament approved its proposal for major European Union legislation to regulate how tech giants do business, on Dec 15, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

STRASBOURG, FRANCE (AFP, REUTERS) - The European Parliament on Wednesday (Dec 15) approved its proposal for major European Union legislation to impose unprecedented restrictions on how tech giants do business.

This includes extending the scope to their retailing activities and to their business users outside Europe.

The landmark legislation should give the EU unprecedented powers to act quickly against these tech "gatekeepers" and impose a strict list of Do's and Don'ts on their most dominant platforms.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favour of their version of the Digital Markets Act, aimed at slapping far-reaching rules on behemoths like Meta/Facebook, Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

The European Parliament wants to extend it to travel website, China's Alibaba and online retailer Zalando as well.

EU lawmakers also want the rules to apply to Web browsers, virtual assistants and connected TV, adding to a list of online intermediation services, social networks, search engines, operating systems, online advertising services, cloud computing and video-sharing services.

The lawmakers' proposal would make it easier for users to switch default settings on their services and products to rivals.

The final law, along with the companion Digital Services Act regulating online content, will be thrashed out with EU member states in the coming months in the hope of completing negotiations on a final law next year.

A key parliamentary committee approved its proposal for the Digital Service Act on Tuesday and it is set to be voted on by all lawmakers in January.

Big tech companies and other interests are lobbying furiously to influence the final outcome for the laws, and member states will weigh in until the end with their own national priorities.

The negotiations with Members of the European Parliament will be presided by France, which has made delivering the new rules into law a major priority of its six-month EU presidency that begins on Jan 1.

In detail, the parliament's version strengthened the proposals put forward by the EU's executive and agreed by member states, including pushing for inter-operability between different messaging services.

It also looks to beef up the powers of national competition authorities, with key member states Germany and France eager to not leave all the power to the European Commission in Brussels.

The European Consumer Organisation said the proposal would "give consumers a greater share of the benefits of digital services" and called on member states to stick to the changes made by lawmakers.

"For example, the Parliament's amendments would give consumers more choice over which social networks and instant messaging services they use and prevent tech giants from using 'dark patterns' to distort consumers' choices," it said in a statement.

"It is crucial the EU sets the standard to the rest of world by making sure the digital economy works to the benefit of consumers rather than to the exclusive benefit of the tech giants," it said.

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