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Rules and oversight must offer room to innovation

Rules and oversight must offer room to innovation

Competition rules and consumer protection rules should not unnecessarily stand in the way of innovation. Online platforms such as Uber for taxi rides, and Airbnb and for accommodation offer consumers many advantages. With these platforms, it becomes easy for consumers to comparison-shop and to make their choices. At the same time, businesses that operate such platforms cannot use their dominant positions to stop innovation or to prevent newcomers from entering the market. To that end, enforcement of the rules may be needed. Finding that delicate balance between oversight and offering room was the main theme of the European Consumer and Competition Day, which was held on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Options for consumers

In her speech, Margrethe Vestager, the EU Commissioner for Competition, emphasized that the European Commission pays attention to dominant firms in the digital economy. It is important that consumers continue to have enough options, for example, when choosing add-ons to their search engines or internet browsers.

Harmonization of rules at a European level is critical

Despina Spanou, Director for Consumers at the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, argued for harmonization of consumer protection rules. It is still difficult for EU consumers to make online purchases in a European country other than their own. Consumers are the key to stimulating competition, also within Europe. Consumer protection rules need to reinforce that key role.

Corinne Vigreux, co-founder of TomTom, also argued for harmonization of rules. Businesses in Europe have to deal with so many different rules that is becomes difficult for innovation to get off the ground. If that does not change, Europe may risk missing the boat in terms of innovation: “If you are not sitting at the table, you are on the menu. And that is not where you want to be.”

About the European Consumer and Competition Day (ECCD)

The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets have organized this conference together. The ECCD is held twice a year. Every country that holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union organizes this conference, and chooses the conference’s theme. At the ECCD in Amsterdam, over 300 guests from all over Europe attended the conference.