Vestager calls for more access to data for smaller platforms

You can develop excellent and innovative technologies but if you do not also have access to data, you will not be able to offer clients a good service,” said Vestager to Alexander Fanta from netzpolitik.org. [Stefanie Loos/re:publica]

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager made a suggestion at the re:publica conference in Berlin: “Access to data has to be redesigned so that newcomers can compete with big tech giants”. In a background discussion, she also drew parallels with a recent complaint by Spotify and similar lawsuits. EURACTIV Germany reports.

When competing with big tech corporations, very few companies actually survive. Advantages are too great when corporations are hosts and competitors at the same time.

Amazon, for example, supports other companies with processing payment transactions and supply chains. At the same time, it obtains market data of other companies’ customers and knows what their interests are. This gives them an advantage that is difficult to catch up on.

That is why it is clear for Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager: the rules of the game need to be changed. She does not want to let tech giants get away with so much.

Her proposal: Access to data should be reformed. This could give smaller competitors the chance to be more relevant.

“Data allows you to be competitive. You can develop excellent and innovative technologies but if you do not have access to data at the same time, you will not be able to offer clients good service,” she explained. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible to keep up with market leaders like Google.

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In a brief meeting with EURACTIV after her presentation, Vestager drew a parallel with the complaints recently filed by Spotify: The various platforms are in increasingly tough competition with each other and complaints are piling up.

Spotify, the Swedish music streaming service, has recently filed a complaint against Apple before the European Commission. While Spotify is charged when in-app purchases are made on Apple devices by new subscribers, Apple Music is not.

Spotify argued that Apple Music could, therefore, offer its service at a cheaper rate. But Apple considers the cost to be justified, as the platform that Spotify benefits from also requires work.

The Commission is currently looking into the matter.

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In order to better monitor competition between platforms, the Commissioner is also proposing a seven-year financial framework for the development of its own algorithms and other tools.

Currently, it is nearly impossible to have an overview. There are around 7,000 platforms in Europe alone and Brussels can only take care of the biggest ones. This should change.

“In Europe, there is no lack of talent, but there is insufficient reach and capital,” said Vestager. One issue is that new capital is often raised through borrowing.

Instead, corporations should be supported to finance themselves via the market – with about five or ten percent of the company’s revenue. As a result, new projects, capital and competences will be obtained.

Vestager announced that the Commission wants to improve structures for this.

Francesca Bria: 'Europe cannot rely on Silicon Valley'

Taking place across 6-8 May, Berlin’s Re:publica is one of the world’s largest conferences on digital culture. EURACTIV Germany took the chance to head along and sit down with Francesca Bria to discuss Spain’s role in the EU’s digital revolution.

She also wants to see changes to the current model of messaging services: It should be possible to send messages between various providers so that customers are no longer obliged to install many providers. “It is possible to send an SMS even if we all have different providers,” she said.

The new Commission, which will take office after the European elections in late May, should see the digital revolution as a fact and draw up strategies accordingly.

“If we want our democracy to set the course, now is the moment to make it possible,” the Commissioner said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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