After Antitrust Rumors, European Union Mulls Special Regulator for Internet Companies

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As it gears up to probe Google's search practices, the European Union is now considering whether to launch a new regulator to oversee the biggest digital firms operating on the continent, including Google, Facebook and Amazon. The Wall Street Journal and Quartz have acquired the plan documents, which were drawn up for EU digital commissioner Günther Oettinger and argue that there is a "clear case" for gathering more information on web platforms given their importance to the economy.

"The current level of information on platforms is not commensurate with their role in the economy," states the report. "This impedes policy makers from designing relevant and evidence-based policies to balance the economic benefits and risks arising from their preeminent position."

The document, reportely drafted in February, warns that some digital powerhouses are "transforming into super-nodes that can be of systemic importance for the rest of the economy" and that "only a limited part of the economy will not depend on them in the near future." Specific companies that could come under investigation include Yahoo, eBay, Etsy and China's Alibaba. The report calls out TripAdvisor and as examples of sites whose dominance in their sector (travel bookings) allows them to "charge fees with full discretion."

Leaving potentially unfair practices unchecked could place "the whole European economy at risk," the paper argues.

Meanwhile, the EU recently accused Google of antitrust violations, saying in a so-called statement of objections that the online giant has been using its position in Internet search to favor its own services for mapping, travel and shopping, among others. The Commission also unveiled a probe into Google's Android mobile software.


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