EU Pressures Tech Giants’ CEOs Over Hearings

The European Parliament has invited the chief executive officers of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to a virtual hearing in Brussels next week ahead of a major regulatory overhaul.

Last month the European Commission unveiled proposed regulations aimed at curtailing the powers of major tech platforms and forcing them to take more responsibility for illegal content, goods and services.

Over the coming months the European Parliament is to begin evaluating the proposed rules, called the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

The virtual hearing is intended to allow tech companies to provide input on their business models and future plans as they “face the challenges of altering market conditions”, the EU’s invitation says.

Virtual hearings

“The event will contribute to preparing the members of the European Parliament for the upcoming discussions on potential new regulation for the digital sector,” it says.

“For all these reasons, we wish to clarify that this invitation is for the CEOs only.”

The invitation states that the European Parliament is willing to change the date to another one in February or March to accommodate the companies.

However, reports have indicated that the tech giants involved are unlikely to be willing to send their chief executives.

Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook are unlikely to attend, the Financial Times reported last week, while Alphabet and Google chief executive Sundar Pichai is scheduled to hold a video call with EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Monday, 25 January.

Sanctions threat

The companies involved are likely to prefer sending legal experts on competition and tax issues to the hearing.

The paper said MEPs are threatening sanctions for failure to participate in the hearings, including barring company lobbyists from future parliamentary meetings.

However, such a ban could be difficult to implement for practical or legal reasons.

Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google all declined to comment.

The companies’ unwillingness to participate in EU proceedings contrasts to the situation in the US, where their chief executives have appeared before Congress in high-profile hearings.

Vestager said in December that the EU would be willing to use the new regulations to “impose structural remedies [and] divestitures” on tech firms that abuse their market dominance.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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