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Germany considers competition framework for the digital economy

A commission of experts on “competition law 4.0”, set up by Germany’s Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, and chaired by Martin Schallbruch, Heike Schweitzer and Achim Wambach, has presented its recommendations for a new competition framework for the digital economy to the minister. The commission believes that the practical and actual power of consumers to dispose of their own data must be improved, that clear rules of conduct for dominant platforms must be introduced, legal certainty for cooperation in the digital sector must be enhanced, and the institutional linkage between competition law and other digital regulation must be strengthened. With a view to attaining these goals, it has drawn up 22 recommendations relating to platforms, data access and digital ecosystems. Said Martin Schallbruch: “Boosting the autonomy of the consumer is an important tool which can safeguard competition. The easier it is for consumers to port their data from one provider to another or to grant new providers access to data, the easier it will be for rival companies to attack data-based positions of power.” Heike Schweitzer added: “The digital economy breaks up established value chains and leads to a restructuring of markets. If companies are to take advantage of the resulting opportunities for innovation across different markets, they need to be able to experiment with new forms of data pooling and data exchange. However, they are currently lacking legal certainty. We therefore recommend the introduction of a voluntary notification procedure for novel forms of cooperation at European level. This would also give the European Commission greater insights into new market developments and forms of cooperation.” And Achim Wambach noted: “We need rules for dominant platforms. Such platforms should be banned from giving themselves preferential treatment. Also, these platforms should be obliged to deliver portability of user and usage data in real time and in an interoperable data format.” The government says it will study the recommendations and work towards a further development of competition law at European level. The commission’s work has also fed into work by the Economic Affairs Ministry to modernise Germany’s competition legislation, which will shortly be presenting a draft digital competition act. See report in German and summary in English.

  • Monday, 16 September 2019

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