Wednesday

21st Feb 2024

EU not planning one-size rules for internet giants

  • Ansip: 'It is practically impossible to regulate all the platforms with one single solution or regulation.' (Photo: chialinshih)

The European Union is not going to draw up a single set of rules for internet services like Google, Facebook and Spotify, digital commissioner Andrus Ansip has said.

“We had our project team meeting. We agreed very clearly that we will not take this horizontal approach, we will take a problem-driven approach,” Ansip told a dozen journalists in Brussels on Friday (15 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Almost a year ago, the European Commission announced it would analyse the role of “online platforms”, which included “search engines, social media, e-commerce platforms, app stores, price comparison websites”.

The Commission said some of those platforms were "competing in many sectors of the economy and the way they use their market power raises a number of issues that warrant further analysis beyond the application of competition law in specific cases”.

In other words, case-by-case antitrust investigations might not be enough to regulate large online firms like Facebook and Google, and some additional regulation may be required.

But now, Ansip said the assessment was not likely to lead to new legislation.

“It is practically impossible to regulate all the platforms with one single solution or regulation,” he said.

The Estonian politician also spoke about platforms that facilitate demand and supply between citizens, the so-called sharing economy or collaborative economy, which includes services by companies like Airbnb and Uber.

“It's absolutely clear that this sharing economy will be our future. It will stay for a very long period of time,” he noted, adding that some legislation would have to adapt to fit with new technology, while also urging companies that they have to respect the existing rules.

But he said the commission needed to do more research to find out if any EU policy response was required beyond publishing guidelines.

“Today it's too early to say what we have to do exactly when we are talking about collaborative economy,” he said.

Ansip also noted the commission was taking a “step-by-step approach” to end geo-blocking, the practice of shutting out consumers because of where they access a website from.

Instead of a single rule that forbids the practice, the commission is instead planning to introduce several bills to end specific types of geo-blocking.

In December, it already presented its legislation on data portability – new rules that would give EU citizens the right to access their legally acquired digital content. This would mean you would be able to access the same Netflix series anywhere in the EU as you could at home.

To illustrate his opposition to geo-blocking, he loaded a video on his tablet, which showed what geo-blocking would look like if it happened in the physical world, in this case in a bakery.

This is about digital content. But the commissioner also wants to end the practice where companies with web shops refuse to sell to citizens based on their geographical location.

Ansip said the commission would come up with a proposal that would oblige companies to “sell like at home” - if a physical good is sold online in one EU country, any EU citizen should be able to buy from that company.

He added that this principle would apply only to the selling part of the transaction.

“An obligation to sell like at home does not mean there will also be an obligation to deliver. We hope private service providers will deal with those issues,” he said.

Feature

EU to analyse role of Facebook and Google

The EU will start an assessment into the role of online platforms. But the increased influence of internet companies has already been discussed by 'internet critics' for several years.

France's Le Maire 'goes German' with austerity budget

The French government announced €10bn in further spending cuts. However, defence spending is set to increase significantly, up to €413bn from €295bn, while €400m was cut from a fund meant for renovating schools, carpooling infrastructure, and other environmental projects.

Opinion

The elephant in the room at this weekend's African Union summit

Italy's offer to mobilise €5.5bn over the next years, overwhelmingly in already-allocated loans and guarantees, pales in comparison to the financing challenges faced by Africa. Only an EU-wide coordinated financial offer can credibly respond to African needs.

Latest News

  1. African leaders unveil continent-wide plan to buy medicines
  2. EU urban-rural divide not bridged by cohesion policy, report finds
  3. Impending Rafah disaster shows up politics of humanitarian aid
  4. Sweden heading into Nato, after Orbán-Kristersson deal
  5. EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack
  6. 'Nightmare' 2024 sees Orbán struggle ahead of EU elections
  7. 'Crying wolf' win for chemicals lobby at Antwerp EU meeting
  8. Hungary blocks EU appeal for Israel not to strike Rafah

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us