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EU’s DMA could spur pushbacks against tech firms





The European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to curb the power of big technology companies, could spur yet another round of pushbacks against such companies in India, according to experts.

“The EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) was a local law but we saw the impact it had across the world. DMA, too, will have a similar impact across multiple jurisdictions,” said N.S. Nappinai, Supreme Court lawyer and cyber law expert.

Interoperability, for instance, has consistently been upheld as a necessary mandate to break down dominant positions, and this is a “welcome move from a user perspective,” Nappinai said.

Once the DMA rules are implemented, chances are that somebody in India will “wake up and seek remedies through competition laws, assuming the platforms don’t expand it to India on their own,” she added.

Likewise, tech policy analyst Prasanto K. Roy, pointed out that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) always takes notes of rules and regulations set forth by the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, when making decisions. The CCI is currently investigating multiple competition cases against companies such as Google and Apple.

To be sure, several issues taken up by the law such as enforcing interoperability, stifling competition, and protecting data privacy have already been a bone of contention between government bodies and big tech firms, said policy professionals and cyber law experts.

“It will lead to more conversations around ex-ante rules (rules and regulations that are formulated in anticipation of future events) for digital markets,” said Isha Suri, senior researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS). “And that’s not only in India; jurisdictions across the world are talking about it,” she added.

Suri also noted that interoperability, a key element of the DMA, can be a “very, very effective” method to foster competition and “also to hold big companies more accountable”.

The DMA’s interoperability rules will allow smaller platforms to request large gatekeeper firms to open up their services, allowing users to send files and exchange messages across platforms.

She pointed out, as an example, that when WhatsApp made changes to its privacy policy, many users moved on to Signal and Telegram due to their more privacy-preserving choices. But they couldn’t delete WhatsApp as a lot of their social network was still continuing to use it.

The DMA also seeks to regulate and restrict “killer acquisitions”, which can allow large platforms to acquire smaller rivals and use that to kill potential competition. For instance, in the US, social media giant Facebook has been accused of doing so through its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, while Facebook and Google’s investments in India’s Reliance Jio have raised similar questions at times.

“Both GDPR and DMA were enacted because Europe has been lagging in the digital industry, as compared to the US. These are mechanisms to protect /the citizens, but the intended consequence is also to give space for European digital initiatives to gain an upper hand,” said Jaijit Bhattacharya, founder, Centre for Digital Economic Policy Research (C-DEP).

“From an Indian perspective, many things are worth borrowing from the DMA,” he added.

To be sure, some of the new DMA rules are already part of India’s Competition Act.

The CCI, for instance, had raised Section 4 violations against Google in cases, alleging that it favours the Google Pay payments platform over others in its Play Store and Android operating system. Section 4 of India’s Competition Act seeks to prevent enterprises from abusing dominant positions in the market.

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