European Commission keeps an eye on US congress hearing of GAFA on competition

On the 29th July, the US congress held a hearing of the CEOs of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple, on the probe of the dominance of digital platforms, following a yearlong investigation. The hearing was meant to get some clarity as to whether these companies engage on anticompetitive practices to the disadvantage of smaller competitors, impacting consumers, citizens, innovation and democracy.

Questions from congress members focused on the business model of these platform and their impact on competition, in particular through the use of personal data but also through acquisition of emerging competitors, such as the purchase of Instagram by Facebook.  On the issue of use of third-party seller data to support Amazon’s own business, Jeff Bezos confirmed that Amazon has a policy in place forbidding the use of such data. However, he could not provide guarantee with regard tot eh enforcement of this policy. Republicans focused mostly on the role of these platforms in potential influence of the coming US elections through the presence of political bias.

The European Commission followed closely the congressional hearing. With similar concerns as the one expressed in the US, the European Commission is currently reviewing its competition policies and has already announced that a new competition tool ‘fit for the digital age’ would be unveiled before the end of the year. Its purpose would be to facilitate timely and effective intervention against structural competition problems across markets. In addition, the ongoing Digital Services Act consultation also includes ideas for an ex ante regulation to specifically address digital gatekeeper’s platform.

We have yet to see what the next action of the US Congress on this issue will be. The European Commission DSA and new competition tool consultations will close on the 8th of September.