“Digital Era” Report Bolsters Commissioner Vestager’s Digital Legacy
On April 4, 2019, the European Commission published a report by Jacques Crémer, Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, and Heike Schweitzer on competition policy for the digital era (the Digital Era Report, or the Report), the culmination of a year-long project initiated by Commissioner Vestager to look systematically at challenges for EU competition policy created by the ongoing digitization of the economy. As part of this project, the Commission commissioned the report in March 2018, launched a consultation in July 2018 that generated well over 100 responses, and organized a major conference in Brussels in January 2019 (discussed in more detail here).
While not binding on the Commission, the Digital Era Report will likely have a significant impact on EU competition policy. The Digital Era Report puts the Commission at the head of European authorities considering similar issues, including Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. In the short time since it was published, Commissioner Vestager has made frequent references to the Report, including in speeches in Bucharest on April 4, Paris on April 8 and Copenhagen on May 10.
Specifically, the Digital Era Report offers new analytical frameworks and concrete proposals targeting some of the hottest issues in antitrust today: the application of EU antitrust rules to online platforms; circumstances under which companies are allowed – or can be forced -- to share data; and how best to review large companies’ acquisitions of much smaller companies where the target’s activities do not directly overlap with the buyer’s (and where notification thresholds may not be reached at all).
In a recent article published by KNect365 Law, Jay Modrall, Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright in Brussels, summarises the proposals in the Digital Era Report and offers observations on those most likely to lead to changes in EU competition law enforcement in the near to medium term.