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Breaking new EU rules aimed at curbing their powers, tech giants could face fines, be ordered to change their practises, or even be forced to break up their European businesses, digital bloc leader Thierry Breton said on 25 November.
Breton’s comments come two weeks before he is due to present draught rules known as the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which are likely to affect major US players such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft.
The DSA will force tech companies to explain how their algorithms work, open their advertising archives to regulators and scientists, and do more on their platforms to address hate speech, harmful content and counterfeit products.
The DMA is aimed at online gatekeepers with a list of requirements, such as the sharing with rivals and regulators of certain types of data; and outlawed practises, such as favouring their own services. It will include a range of sanctions as well.
Breton told reporters during an online briefing, “We start with a fine, then you have a larger fine, then you may have a temporary remedy, specific remedies, then you may have at the end of the day what we also have in the rules of competition, structural separation.”
“So from fines to separations, but only in the European market, of course,” he said.
Forcing companies to break up would be a last resort, said Breton, the EU’s Commissioner for the Internal Market.
Structural separation is not an objective, not my goal, just to ensure that we also have the means to act if necessary,” he added.”
Big technology companies seeking acquisitions may also be required to inform the EU executive body, the European Commission, of its intentions, Breton said.
They may have an obligation to just let us know what they want to do, and then we’ll see if all of their obligations are fulfilled,” he said.”
However, the planned laws are still some way away from taking effect. The European Commission will have to negotiate the final legislation, a process that could take a year or two, with EU countries and the European Parliament to agree.