25. March 2022

DMA: Fairness and democratic rules for the European digital market

Decisions like the Digital Markets Act (DMA) are a clear stop sign to gatekeepers like Facebook and Amazon in Europe. After about eight hours of negotiations, at the last trilogue the Commission, Parliament and Council agreed on regulations to boost competition and ensure that European companies can get a look in again. The most important goal has also been achieved: Just because digital companies have employed trickery to gain sovereignty of our personal data and intercept data from other companies via their platforms, we shall not let them control our entire industry.

 

That is why the DMA is so important. It draws fair red lines in the digital market:

 

  • Preferential treatment of own products and services must no longer be tolerated. Let’s take Amazon as an example: Until now, the company has been intercepting data from successful retailers on its platform with a view to copying their products, offering them for cheaper, and placing themselves higher up the ranking than the original. This unfair practice has become commonplace, from vacuum cleaners to charger cables. The DMA now puts an end to that.
  • Advertising with personal data only possible with express consent from users in the future: So far, large digital companies have had free rein in creating profiles using personal data from various services to show targeted advertising to individual users. That is now history. In the future, they will need users’ consent to carry out this practice or will have to provide alternative access to their services. That is a great success: There is no longer a “take it or leave it” situation where users either have to hand over all of their data or not be able to use the services. The DMA is paving the way for alternatives.
  • Fewer cookies: The DMA ensures that people who have already consented to data processing are then only asked again once every year.
  • Interoperability for messenger services is on its way: In the future, nobody will have to use the WhatsApp service and agree to all the conditions of use to be able to connect with their friends there. In the future, it will be possible to communicate across messenger services. The new function doesn’t apply for groups yet, but it does for individuals, and it is an important step towards more competition and in favour of companies that offer higher data protection and privacy standards.
  • En route to interoperability for social platforms: In the next step, the European Commission has to define standards for the operability of social media platforms such as Facebook. That way, new social networks can emerge without radicalisation mechanisms and data theft, because nobody will have to forego digital friendships because they don’t want to sign up to Facebook’s unfair contractual conditions.
  • What is very important: The Council and Parliament have formally pledged to implement a ban of personalised advertising for minors and the use of sensitive data such as political or religious affiliation or sexual orientation in the DSA, the DMA’s “big sister”. An agreement on this major act, which includes regulation of users’ rights and online platforms’ algorithms, is expected in April.

The agreement on the DMA now has to be formally ratified by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.

 

A debate on the DSA will be held in the coming week on Thursday, 31st March. It adds a social dimension to the economic dimension of the DMA. Both acts together, the DMA and DSA, set global standards which will make Europe a role model in digital legislation and will break the monopolies’ omnipotence.

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