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Dutch competition watchdog calls for tighter EU rules to rein in Big Tech role in payments

Dutch competition watchdog calls for tighter EU rules to rein in Big Tech role in payments

Dutch anti-trust authorities have recommended new rules to rein in the advance of Big Tech companies in the payments arena.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) argues that Big Tech companies such as Apple, Facebook, Amazon, or Ant Group (Alibaba) must ensure that their platforms or devices are suitable for different providers of payment services.

A market study conducted by the competition watchdog at the behest of the Dutch Ministry of Finance finds that Big Tech companies are strengthening their positions in the payments market through acquisitions and collaborations.

Martijn Snoep, chairman of the Board of ACM, comments: “Big Tech companies can act as a driving force behind competition and, by extension, behind innovation on the Dutch payment market. However, that role does require Big Tech companies to open up their platforms and devices to competing payment services, in the same way that banks do. Only with such a level playing field in place will payment services continue to compete and innovate, and will consumers continue to enjoy freedom of choice. It would be good if the European rules regarding this issue were tightened, before the market is dominated by one or several major competitors.”

Snoep points out that Big Tech companies that only facilitate payment services currently do not fall under the European rules for open access to payment systems, the PSD2 Directive. ACM recommends amending this Directive, so that Big Tech companies that only play a facilitating role must also comply with it.

"After all, in that facilitating role, these Big Tech companies are the gateway for payments, and they are able to restrict competition and the options for consumers," states the ACM.

The second amendment would involve changing the current competition rules, so that conditions can be imposed on dominant platforms in advance.

States the report: "By changing these rules, we can force companies with, for example, a dominant position on an online market to open up their platforms to other market participants, thereby ensuring a level playing field."

The European Union is already pondering whether to force Apple to open up its NFC functionality on iOS devices to rival payment providers.

A report produced following a June anti-trust investigation in to the issue concluded: "In parallel with its ongoing and future competition enforcement, the Commission will examine whether it is appropriate to propose legislation aimed at securing a right of access under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions, to technical infrastructures considered necessary to support the provision of payment services."

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