Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are one of the key drivers for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, according to Europe 2020’s economic strategy.
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, other smart devices 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.
Digital services have brought important benefits to users and opened new business opportunities. They can increase consumer choice, and improve efficiency and competitiveness. Large platforms have emerged in the provision of digital services, and represent key structural elements of today’s digital economy.
Data has become a crucial input to digital services. The competitiveness of firms increasingly depends on timely access to relevant data. Data is also a key input in the development of artificial intelligence and companies having access to this input are likely to be better positioned to compete in markets where artificial intelligence is important.
The sector for consumer Internet of Things (IoT) related products and services is expected to grow substantially in the coming years. The consumer IoT sector comprises consumer products and services that are connected to a network and can be controlled at a distance, for example via a voice assistant or mobile device. At the end of 2019, the total number of smart home devices in the Union was around 108 million and is forecast to reach 184 million by 2023.
Ensuring better access for consumers and businesses to goods and services via e-commerce across the EU to foster the internal market has been a key goal of the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy. The Commission is committed to breaking down online barriers, allowing full access to goods and services across the EU; ending unjustified cross-border barriers; and making it easier and safer to shop online no matter where you are in the EU.
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 in order to protect innovation and consumer choice and ensure equal opportunities to compete.
Main investigations and outcomes:
The Commission is carrying out a sector inquiry in the Internet of Things (IoT) sector of consumer-related products and services in the European Union (including voice assistants, smart home appliances and wearable devices).
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 that 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:
- the aid facilitates the development of an economic activity
- the aid is the appropriate way to achieve its objective
- the aid is necessarythe aid is proportionate and kept to a minimum.
- the overall balance of the effects of the aid on the internal market is positive.
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.