Preamble 1 to 10
(1) Digital services in general and online platforms in particular play an increasingly important role in the economy, in particular in the internal market, by enabling businesses to reach users throughout the Union, by facilitating cross-border trade and by opening entirely new business opportunities to a large number of companies in the Union to the benefit of consumers in the Union.
(2) At the same time, among those digital services, core platform services feature a number of characteristics that can be exploited by the undertakings providing them. An example of such characteristics of core platform services is extreme scale economies, which often result from nearly zero marginal costs to add business users or end users. Other such characteristics of core platform services are very strong network effects, an ability to connect many business users with many end users through the multisidedness of these services, a significant degree of dependence of both business users and end users, lock-in effects, a lack of multi-homing for the same purpose by end users, vertical integration, and data driven-advantages.
All these characteristics, combined with unfair practices by undertakings providing the core platform services, can have the effect of substantially undermining the contestability of the core platform services, as well as impacting the fairness of the commercial relationship between undertakings providing such services and their business users and end users. In practice, this leads to rapid and potentially far-reaching decreases in business users’ and end users’ choice, and therefore can confer on the provider of those services the position of a so-called gatekeeper. At the same time, it should be recognised that services which act in a non-commercial purpose capacity such as collaborative projects should not be considered as core platform services for the purpose of this Regulation.
(3) A small number of large undertakings providing core platform services have emerged with considerable economic power that could qualify them to be designated as gatekeepers pursuant to this Regulation. Typically, they feature an ability to connect many business users with many end users through their services, which, in turn, enables them to leverage their advantages, such as their access to large amounts of data, from one area of activity to another.
Some of those undertakings exercise control over whole platform ecosystems in the digital economy and are structurally extremely difficult to challenge or contest by existing or new market operators, irrespective of how innovative and efficient those market operators may be. Contestability is reduced in particular due to the existence of very high barriers to entry or exit, including high investment costs, which cannot, or not easily, be recuperated in case of exit, and the absence of, or reduced access to, some key inputs in the digital economy, such as data. As a result, the likelihood increases that the underlying markets do not function well, or will soon fail to function well.
(4) The combination of those features of gatekeeper is likely to lead, in many cases, to serious imbalances in bargaining power and, consequently, to unfair practices and conditions for business users, as well as for end users of core platform services provided by gatekeepers, to the detriment of prices, quality, fair competition, choice and innovation in the digital sector.
(5) It follows that the market processes are often incapable of ensuring fair economic outcomes with regard to core platform services. Although Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) apply to the conduct of gatekeepers, the scope of those provisions is limited to certain instances of market power, for example dominance on specific markets and of anti-competitive behaviour, and enforcement occurs ex post and requires an extensive investigation of often very complex facts on a case by case basis. Moreover, existing Union law does not address, or does not address effectively, the challenges to the effective functioning of the internal market posed by the conduct of gatekeepers that are not necessarily dominant in competition-law terms.
(6) Gatekeepers have a significant impact on the internal market, providing gateways for a large number of business users to reach end users everywhere in the Union and on different markets. The adverse impact of unfair practices on the internal market and the particularly weak contestability of core platform services, including the negative societal and economic implications of such unfair practices, have led national legislators and sectoral regulators to act.
A number of regulatory solutions have already been adopted at national level or proposed to address unfair practices and the contestability of digital services or at least with regard to some of them. This has created divergent regulatory solutions which results in the fragmentation of the internal market, thus raising the risk of increased compliance costs due to different sets of national regulatory requirements.
(7) Therefore, the purpose of this Regulation is to contribute to the proper functioning of the internal market by laying down rules to ensure contestability and fairness for the markets in the digital sector in general, and for business users and end users of core platform services provided by gatekeepers in particular.
Business users and end users of core platform services provided by gatekeepers should be afforded appropriate regulatory safeguards throughout the Union against the unfair practices of gatekeepers, in order to facilitate cross-border business within the Union and thereby improve the proper functioning of the internal market, and to eliminate existing or likely emerging fragmentation in the specific areas covered by this Regulation.
Moreover, while gatekeepers tend to adopt global or at least pan-European business models and algorithmic structures, they can adopt, and in some cases have adopted, different business conditions and practices in different Member States, which is liable to create disparities between the competitive conditions for the users of core platform services provided by gatekeepers, to the detriment of integration of the internal market.
(8) By approximating diverging national laws, it is possible to eliminate obstacles to the freedom to provide and receive services, including retail services, within the internal market. A targeted set of harmonised legal obligations should therefore be established at Union level to ensure contestable and fair digital markets featuring the presence of gatekeepers within the internal market to the benefit of the Union’s economy as a whole and ultimately of the Union’s consumers.
(9) Fragmentation of the internal market can only effectively be averted if Member States are prevented from applying national rules which are within the scope of and pursue the same objectives as this Regulation. That does not preclude the possibility of applying to gatekeepers within the meaning of this Regulation other national rules which pursue other legitimate public interest objectives as set out in the TFEU or which pursue overriding reasons of public interest as recognised by the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘the Court of Justice’).
(10) At the same time, since this Regulation aims to complement the enforcement of competition law, it should apply without prejudice to Articles 101 and 102 TFEU, to the corresponding national competition rules and to other national competition rules regarding unilateral conduct that are based on an individualised assessment of market positions and behaviour, including its actual or potential effects and the precise scope of the prohibited behaviour, and which provide for the possibility of undertakings to make efficiency and objective justification arguments for the behaviour in question, and to national rules concerning merger control. However, the application of those rules should not affect the obligations imposed on gatekeepers under this Regulation and their uniform and effective application in the internal market.
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