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EU SMEs in bid for greater interoperability in Digital Markets Act

Forty pan-European tech companies have penned a letter to MEPs calling for support for bolstered interoperability requirements in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) while stressing the importance of keeping the rules aligned to developments in the area across EU nations

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Advocates say that greater obligations for some of the world’s biggest tech firms to introduce interoperable elements into their systems would help to level the playing field in terms of competitiveness in the digital economy.
Advocates say that greater obligations for some of the world’s biggest tech firms to introduce interoperable elements into their systems would help to level the playing field in terms of competitiveness in the digital economy.

by Samuel Stolton

Forty pan-European tech companies have penned a letter to MEPs calling for support for bolstered interoperability requirements in the Digital Markets Act (DMA) while stressing the importance of keeping the rules aligned to developments in the area across EU nations.

The letter, sent to lawmakers on Monday (29 March), cited the benefits that a bolstered interoperability provision in the DMA can have for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across Europe’s tech landscape, saying they can “reduce the anti-competitive barriers created by the lock-in of established user bases.”

Interoperability refers to the ability of different computerized products or services to interact with one another and work seamlessly.

Advocates say that greater obligations for some of the world’s biggest tech firms to introduce interoperable elements into their systems would help to level the playing field in terms of competitiveness in the digital economy.

It would give “European SMEs, larger businesses and public administrations greater choice, more efficiency, and lower costs because they would enjoy a wider range of suppliers to choose from,” the signatories wrote.

The campaign has been spearheaded by German web-based communication software firm Open-Xchange, which says that interoperability can help to improve innovation and offer a wider range of services for end-users to choose from.

“Open standards and interoperability allowed the Internet to thrive through innovation and competition until the ‘walled gardens’ came,” Open-Xchange’s Vittorio Bertola told EURACTIV.
“We want to recreate the conditions that would allow us to offer European, privacy-friendly alternatives to dominant platform services,” he added.

Commission backtracking on interoperability

The Commission’s DMA proposal, presented in December, does include an interoperability obligation, but the EU executive decided on imposing such a requirement only for ancillary services rather than core services.

This represented a step-down from earlier Commission draft texts as part of the DMA, which had pitched broader interoperability obligations within the framework of a list of so-called blacklist, greylist, and whitelist practices.

Meanwhile, the EU’s institutional data protection body, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), issued a series of recommendations earlier this year on the Digital Markets Act, which included the suggestion that co-legislators should introduce “explicit obligations” on minimum interoperability requirements for Big Tech platforms.

“The EDPS considers that issues of lack of contestability and possibilities of market entry that the proposal seeks to address are exacerbated by the closed nature of gatekeepers,” the opinion read.

“Increased interoperability has the potential to facilitate the development of a more open, pluralistic digital environment, as well as to create new opportunities for the development of innovative digital services,” it added, and called for co-legislators to introduce “minimum interoperability requirements for gatekeepers and to promote the development of technical standards at the European level.”

Following the Commission’s December proposal, the DMA is now embarking on the co-legislative procedure, having been assigned to the Competition Working Party in the European Council, as well as several European Parliamentary committees.

However, disputes continue to dog the progress of the file in the Parliament, with stiff competition between the Internal Market and Economics committee to lead it.

The Internal Market committee argues that because the legal basis of the text is Article 114 of the treaty, it should be regarded as a harmonization instrument and therefore fall under their committee’s remit. On the other hand, the Economy committee believes that due to the competition element of the file, it should fall under their purview.

As part of a Conference of Committee Chairs (CCC) meeting last week, no final decision was made, but EURACTIV understands that a recommendation from CCC Chair Antonio Tajani will be forwarded on to Parliament’s Conference of Presidents soon.

*first published in: www.euractiv.com

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