Gatekeeper Rules for Digital Platforms and Their Impact on SMEs

By Bianca Manelli

On Thursday, November 26th, in cooperation with the European Economic Senate and SME Connect, SME Europe organized a Webinar titled “Gatekeeper Rules for Digital Platforms and Their Impact on SMEs” in order to understand how European regulation targeting gatekeepers might end up affecting SMEs.

Moderated by Florian Hartleb, Political Science Author and  Lecturer and Managing Director Hanse Advice Tallin, the Webinar was hosted by Ivan Stefanec MEP, Member of the IMCO Committee and President of SME Europe of the EPP and had interventions by Ricardo Castanheira, Coordinator of the Digital Team at the Permanent Representation of Portugal to the European Union, Benedikt Blomeyer, Director EU Policy at Allied for Startups, Karina Stan, Director EU Policy and Head of the Brussels Office at Developers Alliance, Margarete Rudzki, Head of Unit Digital Economy and Society at the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts and Businesses (ZDH) and Henna Virkkunen MEP, Member of the ITRE Committee and Co-Chair of the SME Circle.

Ivan Stefanec opened the floor by remarking the importance of designing clear quantitative and qualitative criteria to define gatekeepers and establishing ex-ante competition tools that will allow small players to innovate and grow.

Bringing the national perspective, Ricardo Castanheira emphasized the requirement to digitally empower both citizens and businesses by having a strong and ethical digital environment as its foundation. In this regard, the Digital Market Act represents the opportunity to devise future-proof regulation fitting the complexity of this ecosystem.

Representing European startups, Benedikt Blomeyer warned against crushing the ambitions of entrepreneurs: to remain lean and agile, European SMEs build upon existing infrastructure and should not be penalized for growing. “DMA legislation should feed into these ambitions,” he stated. 

Destabilizing the digital ecosystem through ex-ante regulation could be problematic for developers and issues at play like interoperability, cybersecurity and access to data are too complex to be fit by a one-size-fits-all regulatory solution, added Karina Stan. Conversely, a case-by-case assessment guided by the principles of competition policy could also target remedy through participative antitrust. 

Today, data is at the core of value creation. “It’s not about the products: it’s about the underlying data analytics and the knowledge to create competing products and push competitors out of the market,” commented Margarete Rudzki. It is imperative to ensure that upcoming legislation does not transfer administrative burdens and requirements to smaller players instead. 

Lastly, Henna Virkkunen concluded the Webinar by remarking that, to not discourage European players from scaling up, three are the priorities: defining digital gatekeepers, creating procedural safeguards for companies, and acknowledging the benefits platforms provide to the ecosystem. Ultimately, she stated, “new regulation, like the DMA, needs to meet its aim of facilitating and not hampering growth and innovation,” while at the same time “giving long-term perspective and legal certainty to entrepreneurs and investors.”