OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Don’t Trust Antitrust Tactics: Why America Must Push for Parity in Europe

Friday’s congressional subcommittee hearing on international antitrust enforcement could not come at a better time. While the French election of Emmanuel Macron is good news for the future stability of the European Union, there’s room for improvement when it comes to the EU’s overreaching and anti-competitive antitrust enforcement against U.S. companies.

Over the last few years, the EU has taken tough enforcement action against U.S. tech innovators. The European Commission is now considering whether to pass new rules that would further interfere with how American web platforms such as Google, Amazon and TripAdvisor interact with the small businesses they host. And the European Court of Justice is considering labeling Uber a transportation service instead of a tech company. This would force Uber to adhere to the far more rigorous regulations of the former, and in turn create barriers to entry for drivers, many of whom rely on Uber as a key source of income.

These actions, though frustrating, do not come as a surprise. The EU has a long history of protectionism, favoring well-regulated, incumbent companies over disruptive, game-changing innovators. In recent years, much of that favoritism has worked against U.S. tech companies. In April 2015, the European Commission moved to examine Google for an alleged breach of antitrust laws. The same month the commission began the process of inspecting Apple for another potential breach of these laws. And two months later, a similar charge was made against Amazon, which was accused of making e-book sales more difficult for other booksellers.

Meanwhile, Europe has, by and large, failed to keep up in the global push for tech-centric, ubiquitous connectivity. Since the founding of the internet, the EU has launched only a handful of major tech companies. (Spotify and SoundCloud are the most commonly known, along with Rovio, Deezer, Mojang and King.)

There has been some push for change — no doubt in part because of the shock over Brexit. Every year, more European tech companies exhibit at CES – The Global Stage for Innovation. And a small but critical minority of European political leaders are becoming more open to the disruptive world of tech – President-elect Macron being chief among them. Macron came to CES in 2015 and 2016, and while sitting on a panel with other European and American political and business leaders, he gave a passionate defense of both Uber and disruption in general.

“We have to recognize the fact that Uber and all these players provide new opportunities for people as customers,” he said. “And guess what – even when you want to block it, people choose that … You should know that the first city outside the U.S. for Uber as a market is Paris. So people decided, and they are pro-innovation as customers … You should not create a sort of bias, you should … create a level playing field between these different players, but it’s not about blocking innovation.”

Macron’s attitude, however, is far from prevalent, and the extent of his influence over the EU remains to be seen. In the meantime, American companies must continue to push for parity. Friday’s hearing is an excellent start, but its conclusions must be realized in concrete, actionable policies that hold Europe accountable for inequitable treatment.

As Macron rightly pointed out, people pick the digital companies that suit their needs best and, in an increasingly connected world, are less likely to worry about what nation that company hails from. Countries that waste time fighting market disruption will feel the consequences – in the economy, the job market and even diplomacy. Brexit was in many ways a direct consequence of the EU’s regulatory meddling.

In America, we know the power of the people’s choice and have specific legal policies that prevent government from interfering in that power. The result is an innovative, dynamic tech landscape that has made its mark all over the world.

The United Kingdom has seen fit to join our quest for a global, connected world. It’s time for a unified Europe to get on board and embrace the remarkable potential technology holds for everyone. The EU’s protectionist policies are not encouraging European innovation.

 

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies.

Morning Consult welcomes op-ed submissions on policy, politics and business strategy in our coverage areas. Updated submission guidelines can be found here.

Briefings

Tech Brief: 3 House Democrats Call for FCC Investigation of Sputnik

Three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether Sputnik, a news organization established by a Russian state-owned news agency, violated the public interest standard of its broadcast license with its radio show. Reps. Anna Eshoo (Calif.), Frank Pallone Jr. (N.J.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to follow up on a New York Times Magazine report that suggested the organization used U.S. airwaves to broadcast programming aimed at influencing the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Tech Brief: FCC Requests More Information on Sinclair-Tribune Merger

The Federal Communications Commission asked Sinclair Broadcast Group to provide more information on its proposal to acquire Tribune Media Co., a merger currently pending FCC approval. The FCC’s Media Bureau chief wrote a letter to Sinclair asking the telecommunications company to present further information about the size of its current audience, as well as the steps the company plans to take to stay below the ownership cap.

Tech Brief: Kaspersky Agrees to Testify Before House Committee

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee invited Kaspersky Lab Inc. co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky to testify, along with other private and U.S. government cybersecurity experts, before the panel on Sept. 27, and he accepted the invitation — pending the acquisition of an expedited visa. The Moscow-based company, which makes antivirus software, is on the defensive from allegations it aids Russian espionage efforts.

Tech Brief: Judges Rule Uber-Waymo Case Will Go to Trial, Not Arbitration

A panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied Uber Technologies Inc.’s appeal request for its legal dispute with Waymo LLC to move to private arbitration and ruled a public trial will proceed as scheduled in October. The court also ruled that Uber must hand over a crucial report for Waymo’s case that could hold evidence Uber stole trade secrets related to the development of self-driving cars.

Tech Brief: House Democrats Request Answers From Equifax on Data Breach

Led by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), all 24 Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Equifax Inc. CEO Richard Smith expressing concerns that it took more than a month for the company to reveal the massive data breach it said took place from mid-May through July, and about the scale and extent of the breach. The signers asked Smith to address these concerns prior to a planned hearing on the issue.

Tech Brief: Apple Expected to Unveil Premium Model ‘iPhone X’ Today

Apple Inc. plans to premiere the so-called iPhone X with a starting price of $999.00 at a 10th anniversary iPhone event on Tuesday, joining Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd in the market for luxury smartphones. In addition to the iPhone X, which uses infrared facial recognition to unlock the device, Apple is also expected to release cheaper models of the iPhone and an updated Apple Watch, with self-contained connect

Tech Brief: Two House Committees Call Hearings on Equifax Data Breach

Equifax Ltd. could be examined by up to three committees in the U.S. House of Representatives after a breach at the company exposed the data of roughly 143 million people. Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) of the Financial Services Committee and Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) of the Energy and Commerce Committee announced hearings, and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called for an investigation by the Judiciary Committee.

Load More