Sunday 20 September 2020 2:37 pm

EU to toughen up enforcement powers against tech giants

The EU is said to be preparing new rules to strengthen its executive arm, which would allow it to force companies to break up or sell off their European operations if deemed a threat to competition.

The European Commission is currently planning to propose a Digital Services Act by the end of this year, which will provide it with increased oversight of big technology companies such as Facebook and Amazon.

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The rules, which would only be used in extreme circumstances, could also include the ability to force companies out of the single market altogether, EU commissioner Thierry Breton told the Financial Times in an interview.

Under a rating system, members of the public and shareholders could assess companies’ behaviour in matters such as tax compliance and how quickly they take down illegal or offensive content.

Tactics that would result in tougher sanctions would include forcing customers to use only one service, or preventing them from switching platforms.

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“There is a feeling from end users of these platforms that they are too big to care,” Breton told the newspaper.

“[Under] certain conditions we may also have the power to impose structural separation.”

Similar updates to legislative powers are happening in the UK, where consultations are underway that would allow a new regulator to impose fines without requiring court approval.

Meanwhile tech companies are also under scrutiny in the US in a range of antitrust investigations, that most recently saw politicians grill the chief executives of Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook over the summer.