Digitalisation offers many opportunities, but poses new challenges too. In terms of search engines, social networks, messenger services or e-commerce platforms, dominant companies often function as gatekeepers to these markets.
Digitalisation thus impacts on competition, but it affects many other areas too: data protection and sector-specific regulations being just two examples in this context.
For this reason, the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR), specifically its Telecommunications and Postal Services Division, and the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) have been closely cooperating in the field of digitalisation since the autumn of 2019.
Monitoring of digital platforms and presentation of method
One priority area of the two authorities’ cooperation is the monitoring of digital platforms. As a first step, RTR prepared the method paper “Monitoring digital communication platforms and gatekeepers of unrestricted internet access”, working closely with AFCA.
The aim of such monitoring is to provide an overview of competition-related issues and to analyse potential negative developments in the economy.
The method paper explains the analysis in general and the aspects that have been considered in detail.
Platforms are services that bring together two or more groups of users, allowing them to network. When monitoring platforms and assessing them in terms of competition, it is not just the individual services that must be considered but also the wider scope, i.e. the ecosystems in which these services and platforms are embedded.
RTR and AFCA have agreed to regularly exchange the results of their monitoring activities, thereby making an initial competition assessment possible. If there is reason to suspect breaches of competition rules, particularly suspicion of market abuse, the AFCA can initiate an investigation into the matter.
“Monitoring will help us unearth potential competition issues in the digital world. Small and medium-sized companies that depend on gatekeepers aren’t in a position to defend themselves against these big players with greater negotigating power, particularly when that power is being used unfairly. We will therefore pay specific attention to any potentially abusive use of market power,” explains Director General Theodor Thanner.