The dominance of the American internet companies Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft is a thorn in the side of many not only in the EU.

It met with great approval when the European Commission put forward two proposals at the end of 2020 to limit their power: the laws for digital markets and digital services.

Hendrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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It was clear that the corporations would not just accept that.

Even before the proposals were presented, pierced documents showed how Google wanted to weaken Commissioner Thierry Breton, who had been identified as the main opponent.

But that was just a foretaste.

As a new study shows, the ten largest technology groups have recently spent 32.75 million euros a year on lobbying, more than any other industry.

Much more than chemical and auto companies

The industry employed a total of 1,452 registered lobbyists and invested 97 million euros.

According to a study by the organizations Lobby Control and Corporate European Observatory, Google's budget alone is 5.75 million euros, followed by Facebook (5.5 million euros), Microsoft (5.25 million) and Apple (3.5 million).

Only after that comes Huawei (3 million), the first non-American group, followed closely by Amazon (2.75 million).

The "Top 10" are rounded off by the hardware groups IBM, Intel, Qualcomm and Vodafone, which each spend 1.75 million euros.

For comparison: the ten largest chemical companies spend a total of 18 million euros on lobbying activities in Brussels each year.

The ten largest car companies and the ten largest financial groups are each investing 10 million euros.

For the analysis, the authors of the study used the data from the EU's transparency register, in which companies themselves have to state how much money they provide for employees, events or office rentals.

The numbers aren't perfect, but they're the only ones available, says Max Bank of Lobby Control.

It is important for the corporations to finance well-meaning think tanks or employ consulting firms.

Google, for example, used around 1.3 million euros, almost a quarter of its total budget, to commission a total of twelve lobby agencies.

Last but not least, their mission is to influence the public debate.

At the moment, for example, they were spreading that too strict regulation would keep the EU technically dependent and weaken it in competition with China.

46 Meeting with Google

In addition to the funds made available for lobbying, the study's authors also looked at the number of lobbyists' meetings with the Commission. Since EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took office at the end of 2019, there have been 46 meetings with Google alone, closely followed by Facebook and Microsoft with 40 meetings each and Amazon with 20 meetings. Apple and Huawei each had 14 contacts with the Commission.

Their dominance in the meetings specifically scheduled for the two new digital laws is similarly strong.

The authors criticize that three quarters of the 270 meetings were held by representatives from the industry and just under a fifth by non-governmental organizations.

The focus is on the law for digital markets, usually just called DMA after the English abbreviation, which is intended to limit the abuse of market power through a list of prohibited behaviors.

For Lobby Control and the Corporate European Observatory, it follows from the study that the EU needs even stricter lobby rules.

This applies in particular to the Council of Ministers, where there has not yet been sufficient transparency.

States such as Ireland, Luxembourg or Estonia are a gateway for internet companies to change EU rules in their favor.