Everyone involved agreed on one point from the start.

If the EU wants to curb the power of internet giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple, it has to act quickly.

After all, competition law has proven to be largely toothless in recent years.

The European Commission has repeatedly been able to prove to the corporations that they have abused their market power and have imposed penalties.

For the competitors concerned, however, it was usually too late to have a chance on the market.

Hendrik Kafsack

Business correspondent in Brussels.

  • Follow I follow

The European Commission therefore proposed the law for digital services at the end of last year.

The law, which is mostly just DMA for the English name "Digital Markets Act", is intended to forbid corporations directly to almost twenty specific behaviors, such as positioning their own offers in rankings better than those of the competition.

In addition, Google and Apple should no longer be allowed to set certain requirements for billing in their app stores.

Since then, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple have invested millions in lobbying campaigns against the planned rules - with the aim of weakening and delaying them.

At least in the Council of Ministers, the body of the member states, they failed.

The states have agreed on a common position on the DMA, as can be seen from various internal documents from the Council of Ministers and the German EU representation available to the FAZ.

Black and gray list

The competent Council working group on competition has therefore agreed on a text that is to be adopted by the economics ministers at their next meeting on November 25th. The text is strongly based on the original proposal of the EU Commission. Nothing is changed in the DMA cut. The set of rules should apply to all companies that control access to one or more Internet platforms like a "doorman" and have a turnover of more than 6.5 billion euros per year and a market capitalization of more than 65 billion.

This also affects companies such as the Dutch hotel platform Booking. Music streaming services such as Spotify or Deezer or on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney + would also have to comply with the rules. This corresponds to the line of the Commission, the Social Democrats and the Greens in the European Parliament, which define the scope as broadly as possible in order to be able to intervene at an early stage. The German Monopolies Commission and the Member of the European Parliament responsible for the DMA, Andreas Schwab, on the other hand, want to restrict the rules to the Internet giants because the Commission cannot monitor more corporations and traditional competition law is sufficient to control other companies.

Germany has therefore failed in its attempt, supported by the Netherlands and France, to give the Federal Cartel Office a stronger role in the enforcement of the DMA. "The national authorities could now also start their own investigations into the DMA, and the exchange of information between the Commission and the member states will be strengthened," says a wire report from the Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU. Ultimately, however, contrary to what Germany wanted, the Commission remains “the sole executor of the DMA”. The majority of states and the Commission resisted a stronger role for the national authorities because they feared inconsistent application of the DMA.

The proposal to add another procedure to the black and gray list of prohibited behavior in order to make the DMA “future-proof” did not find a sufficient majority either. In fact, the list is fed by ongoing and completed competition proceedings against the Internet giants, so it cannot even cover possible new critical behavior. The new procedure would have made it possible for the Commission, after examining a market sector in which there are competition problems, to prohibit a “bouncer” from behaviors which it defines on the basis of a list of more abstractly formulated examples. The Commission had argued that the list could also be adjusted so flexibly.

So the states have submitted.

The European Parliament, on the other hand, will slow down slightly.

The vote in the responsible internal market committee, which was scheduled for the beginning of November, was postponed on Thursday.

Nevertheless, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers should negotiate a joint position from December onwards so that more time is not wasted unnecessarily.