The digital economy
Dutch society is undergoing fundamental changes as a result of digitalization. Businesses offer services and products that are now part of our daily lives. Digitalization produces enormous benefits and innovation, but it also carries risks. People and businesses should be protected against the risks of digitalization. They should be able to navigate online markets with confidence.
In 2020-2021, ACM will focus on the following two subtopics:
1. Online misleading practices
Why do people accept general terms and conditions almost absentmindedly? What does actually happen with data of and about individuals? And what techniques do businesses use to influence the choices that people make? Businesses are able to influence more and more effectively the choices that individuals make online. In that context, it is not always clear to businesses and consumers at what point legally-permitted persuasion techniques turn into misleading practices. Society is calling for more clarity about the boundaries of online persuasion techniques.
In virtually all sectors, the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence among businesses continues to grow. This may help towards faster production processes, more efficient logistical processes or more personalized selections and offers. However, the way in which this takes place as well as in which the data is selected may involve risks for individuals. Think, for example, of discrimination. In its oversight, ACM wants to pay special attention to the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence by businesses.
2. Access to platforms and ecosystems
Today, a world without online platforms and ecosystems is practically unimaginable. Ecosystems are environments where different applications are able to collaborate by communicating with each other. In addition, businesses are able to join forces in such environments when providing their services. The rapid rise and growth of online platforms and ecosystems offer people and businesses many innovations and benefits. At the same time, the way in which certain markets have been shaken up in a relatively short period of time has also created a certain level of anxiety. Globally-operating companies successfully enter new and existing markets, within and outside the digital economy. Their online platforms and ecosystems are able to grow so fast that no one will be able to ignore them. Platforms could unfairly use this gatekeeper function vis-à-vis buyers and suppliers with the aim to strengthening their own positions. That is why ACM is keeping an eye out for situations where big online platforms use unfair access conditions. All providers, large and small, should have the opportunity to reach their customers and other businesses.
The responses that ACM has received about its 2020-2021 Agenda show that people are concerned about the lack of transparency in the digital world, and about the rapid growth of large tech companies. Our mission is to ensure markets work well for people and businesses. And in 2020, we deliver on that mission by devoting special attention to the following subtopics within the topic of ‘the digital economy’:
Protection of the online consumer
In the Guidelines on the protection of online consumers, ACM explains at what point online persuasion by businesses turns into online misleading practices. Based on this explanation, we will start with enforcement in 2020, for example by investigating rankings, fake reviews, and fake likes.
ACM devotes special attention to the use of algorithms (self-learning or otherwise) by businesses. We will do so by launching an exploratory study into the use of algorithms. We will also publish a working paper on mechanisms with which self-learning algorithms are able to calculate supra-competitive prices. Finally, we will publish a procedure describing how we will investigate or study algorithms in practice.
Big Techs on the Dutch payments market
At the request of the Dutch Ministry of Finance, ACM conducts a market study into major tech firms (so-called Big Techs) on the Dutch payments market. The implementation of European rules on access to payment data (PSD2) allows for more competition and innovation in payment traffic. The entry of Big Techs could promote competition and innovation on the Dutch payments market, but it also carries risks. For example, Big Techs could abuse their strong positions in one market to conquer another market.
IT systems in the health care sector
ACM will launch a sector inquiry into data exchange and interoperability of IT systems in the health care sector, including systems for electronic patient files. The increasing digitalization in the health care sector offers many opportunities. However, commercial and technological strategies of market participants may restrict competition in some cases, with negative consequences for access and growth opportunities, innovation, and the quality and safety of health care.
ACM is finalizing its market study into mobile app stores. App providers are dependent on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store when it comes to offering their apps. We are investigating whether Apple is violating competition rules with its App Store.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
ACM is conducting an exploratory study into digital access to mobility markets. The question is whether there are fair access conditions and sound technological capabilities for mutual communication between systems for operators and service providers. With so-called MaaS-services, passengers should be able use as many mobility services as possible.
Share your ideas with ACM
ACM wishes to ensure that markets function well for people and businesses. We invite everyone to share their ideas about the implementation of the ACM Agenda. Do you have any concrete tip-offs about a specific market that is not functioning properly, for example, because of unfair competition or misleading practices? Or do you have any suggestions for investigations related to our Agenda topics? If so, we would like to hear from you.