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EU considers “prescriptive” measures to boost competition in tech sector

The European Commission is exploring ways to force US tech firms to take steps to make it easier for smaller rivals to compete with them, amid fears that existing antitrust measures are failing.

The change of tack was revealed earlier this week by one of Brussels’ most senior competition regulators, Cecilio Madero, who conceded the Commission’s current model of fining firms for antitrust violations and then demanding that they put an end to the practice is not sufficiently effective.

“In fast-moving markets there is a risk that this would take too long to implement and be too difficult to monitor,” said Madero in remarks first reported by Reuters.

“Therefore in particular in these markets, fast moving markets, we may design more prescriptive and possibly restorative remedies in order to ensure that conditions for effective competition will be fully restored.”

The European Commission has already fined Apple and Google several billion dollars each for antitrust violations, but there are concerns that the measures have failed to pave the way for fundamental reform.

European regulators have historically been tougher on US tech giants’ approach to competition than their American counterparts, but dozens of states have joined forces in recent months to investigate Facebook and Google’s antitrust practices.

Some US politicians, including the Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, have proposed radical changes to the way tech firms operate. Warren, for example, wants to force firms to spin out their marketplaces if they use them to sell their own products.

It was announced earlier this year that Margrethe Vestager would retain her position as competition competition in Ursula von der Leyen’s new commission, but also take on new powers focused on technology specifically. The move was interpreted as a way of ensuring that Vestager has the power required to reform how the sector operates.