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Tackling Big Tech by means of competition tools in the United States and the European Union: A comparison

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Technology companies around the world raise similar antitrust concerns. The United States and the European Union are united in their objective of tackling Big Tech. They both show renewed legislative interests in strengthening competition policies to overcome the difficulties the current legal frameworks face when applied to Big Tech’s business models. The major drivers of antitrust enforcement, the United States and the European Union, introduced new legislative proposals with the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act and House bills as well as the European Digital Markets Act (DMA). Although the introduced regimes differ in their approaches—a complementary asymmetrical new scheme with commandments addressed at gatekeepers in the European Union versus an update of existing general antitrust laws and piecemeal proposals in the United States—they are not so different underneath the surface. U.S. and E.U. legislators employ similar means to achieve their common agenda. Those means include presumptions and burden shifting, the reduction of the importance of a specific market definition, and the strengthening of antitrust enforcement agencies in terms of increased mandate and finances. Overall, the European Union seems to pursue a more aggressive approach with the DMA than the more hesitant U.S. proposals. Possible explanations include the European Union’s foundation in its single market, historically different value sets, and the different stakes involved in regulating technology companies in the United States and the European Union, which leads to, most importantly, different chances of passage due to different political power of Big Tech. Big Tech’s unprecedented economic strength vests immense lobbying power in it, which it seemed to effectively exert within the U.S. legislative process up until recently. In perspective, the increasing skepticism Big Tech is facing among the general public as a result of current whistleblower revelations seems to be fueling more comprehensive and intrusive antitrust reforms in the United States. Consequently, it is not unlikely that U.S. legislators will continue the path of stricter antitrust enforcement and legislation and converge with the sweeping E.U. approach in the long run.