Information Communication Technologies (ICT)
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are one of the key drivers for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, according to the new economic strategy for Europe "Europe 2020".
ICTs and the internet permeate the European economy, thanks to the increased use of broadband applications and services, together with the spread of wireless devices including smartphones and their applications. They are transforming the structures and dynamics of European society, by enabling people to:
- organise their lives and businesses in new ways
- build worldwide networks
- manage information and learn throughout their lives
- socialise and stay in touch with friends
- contribute to the pool of online knowledge
- create content for the new media.
The Commission's Directorate-General for Competition closely monitors the information industry, consumer electronics and internet sectors to ensure that market players comply with EU competition law.
The focus here is on stopping anti-competitive behaviour, to protect innovation and consumer choice and ensure equal opportunities to compete.
Main investigations and outcomes:
- Microsoft – interoperability
2007 – European Court of First Instance confirms Microsoft has abused dominant position by refusing to supply interoperability information to rival server vendors and tying Windows Media Player to Windows.
- Microsoft – choice of web browser
2009 – Microsoft bound by law to enable Windows to run a variety of web browsers in the EU – and to allow computer manufacturers and users to turn off Internet Explorer.
2009 – Intel abused its dominant position on the x86 central processing unit (CPU) market by granting anticompetitive rebates and making payments to delay / stop deployment of competing products. Commission imposed €1.06bn fine and obliged Intel to correct the situation.
2009 – Rambus bound by law to cap its royalty rates for certain patents for "Dynamic Random Access Memory" chips (DRAMS).
- More cases
The Merger Regulation is intended to prevent mergers from seriously affecting competition. Given the dynamic nature of the ICT market, the Commission focuses on keeping the markets open for new entrants and encouraging technological innovation.
State aid is any intervention using public resources at national, regional or local level to support a specific economic activity which affects trade between the EU Member States and may distort competition. The Commission assesses public support for broadband networks, research and development (R&D), productive investment in ICT companies and other such measures to ensure they do not distort the market and fair competition.
The ICT sector mainly benefits from State aid for broadband network development, for R&D and regional development.
The Commission examines whether:
- market failure has occurred and whether aid is an appropriate way to address it
- the aid is necessary
- the aid is proportionate and kept to a minimum.
The Commission takes a positive view of aid that:
- benefits consumers
- provides new research grants
- encourages the development of new products, such as open source.
- extends broadband coverage to areas where such networks do not exist.