EU set to analyse big data use in mergers

The European Union (EU) is planning to take a more detailed look at whether the large amounts of consumer data carried by large internet companies violates competition rules as part of its analysis of proposed mergers.

After taking over as Europe's leading antitrust enforcer in 2014, Margrethe Vestager has enhanced the investigations into US web giants including Google and Amazon in order to determine whether this information should be regulated more strictly.

Ms Vestager noted that protecting consumer privacy transcends her agency's remit, adding that the power large internet companies wield should not make it too challenging for other companies to compete.

This move comes after the European Commission suggested that Google favoured its own shopping services in search results ahead of rivals and is considering potential sanctions against the search engine.

Speaking to a conference of top European and US entrepreneurs and investors, Ms Vestager explained: "If just a few companies control the data you need to satisfy customers and cut costs, then you can give them the power to just drive rivals out of the market.

"If we analyse a merger, if we have a suspicion or concern when it comes to antitrust, if it comes to data, of course we will look at it. If a company's use of data is so bad for competition that it outweighs the benefit, then you may have to step in to restore the level playing field."

Ms Vestager embraced efforts by businesses to develop standards for internet data protection and emphasised the advantages noticed in businesses analysing big data to identify consumer demand to offer personalised shopping and organise better transportation.

She noted that the EU is planning to publish a wide-ranging policy paper on online services by the middle of the year.

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