Google goes on the offensive against European Union platform rules

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Europe’s upcoming rulebook for tech giants could lead to less choice for EU businesses and consumers, a senior Google executive told POLITICO as the company ramps up efforts to weigh in on the upcoming legislation.

“It’s so important to get the rules right for European consumers to have more choice, to support the kind of jobs we’ll need in the future and to support European businesses,” Google’s President of Business and Operations for the EMEA region Matt Brittin said in an interview.

The comments came after an internal lobbying document, seen by POLITICO, showed the tech giant had laid out a 60-day plan to “remove from the Commission’s proposal unreasonable constraints to our business model, our ability to improve products or roll out new features.” 

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Brittin said he had not seen the document. But he warned against “putting up barriers so that Europeans only have access to less choice and to more costly alternatives.”

“Europe has the opportunity to provide leadership, but provide it in a way that … helps Europe to accelerate the economic recovery,” he added.

Google’s outreach comes as the European Commission is drafting legislation, known as the Digital Services Act, for platforms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon and is expected in early December. 

The Digital Services Act will focus on content moderation while another bill, the Digital Markets Act, will set competition rules for so-called gatekeeper platforms

Do’s and don’ts

On the competition side, the stakes for Google are high as the upcoming legislation could force operational changes. 

The EU’s executive body is considering a list of do’s and don’ts for gatekeepers, which could include a ban on using their business users’ commercial data to compete with them; a prohibition on restricting access to data generated by business users; a ban on self-preferencing; and a ban on preventing business users from promoting offers available outside the platform. 

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In its effort to “reset the political narrative,” Google wants to convince policymakers that rules that go too far could backfire by having a negative impact on the European economy, according to the company’s internal document. 

A study to be released Friday, conducted by Brussels-based think tank ECIPE and sponsored by the tech giant, found that imposing ex ante rules on gatekeepers, which is what the Digital Markets Act is likely to do, could cost the EU economy €85 billion a year in gross domestic product.

Brittin also pushed back against the idea that businesses are dependent on Google Search to reach users. 

“Search engines are one way your business can reach people, but today you’ve got many many other ways of reaching people through social media, through apps, through online marketing, through PR,” he said. 

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton trusts the tech giant will eventually make do with the new rules, whatever they might be, he told POLITICO.

“I know [Google] very well. They adapt to European law. They will know how to adapt, like everyone else, and even if it costs a bit of money, they will manage because the European market is an important one, including when it comes to data,” he said.

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