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Big Data as a Competition Issue: Should the EU Commission’s Approach Be More Careful?

Tim Cowen

The issue of “Big Data” as a competition issue, and access to data, and data as the currency of the Digital Single Market has been around for some time. DG Comp announced that it was setting up a dedicated team to oversee these issues in the context of the Digital Single Market, and there is certainly an acceptance across the Commission that the digital economy is central to economic development. With respect to merger control, the Commission has recognised that value may be more attached to data than turnover, and it may be prepared to revise its merger control thresholds to properly review high value but low turnover mergers such as rich data transactions like Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp. Whether the Commission can take a more holistic approach toward public policy issues is a key question. It can be argued that now there is a greater need to respect public interest, e.g. consumer welfare and cultural interests, that clash with competition and trade. The Lisbon Treaty and its cross referencing rules may provide a basis to implement the new policy approach and alter the Commission’s traditional analysis, although it would be only a shift in approach rather than a radical change, however, a welcome one in the light of the evolving policy objectives arising in the Digital Single Market proposals.

Partner Preiskel & Co., London, United Kingdom.


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