Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

14 Apr, 2012

Europe Probes Privacy, Competitive Threats As Mobile Technology Spreads


Brussels, 12 April 2012 (Europa Press Release) – The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a future in which everyday objects such as phones, cars, household appliances, clothes and even food are wirelessly connected to the Internet through smart chips, and can collect and share data. The European Commission wants to know what framework is needed to unleash the potential economic and societal benefits of the IoT, whilst ensuring an adequate level of control of the devices gathering, processing and storing information.

The information concerned includes users’ behavioural patterns, location and preferences. The Commission wants to ensure that the rights of individuals are respected and is launching a public consultation inviting comments by 12th July 2012.

Today, an average person has at least 2 objects connected to the Internet and this is expected to grow to 7 by 2015 with 25 billion wirelessly connected devices globally. By 2020 that number could double to 50 billion. This means a possible future in which many everyday things are linked. For example, if a university teacher cancels a morning lecture because they are sick, students’ alarm clocks and coffee machines could automatically be reset, giving them an extra hour in bed. If an elderly person forgets to take an essential pill, a warning text message could be sent to a close family member, or even to a local emergency centre, so that somebody could call round to check that everything was ok.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, said: “An Internet of Things with intelligence embedded into everyday objects is the next big thing. I want to promote an Internet of Things that serves our economic and societal goals, whilst preserving security, privacy and the respect of ethical values.”

Realising the enormous economic and societal potential of the IoT requires a level playing field where all players can compete on an equal footing, without gate keepers and locked-in users. Its societal acceptance requires the definition of an ethical and legal framework, supported by technology and providing people with control and security. Through the consultation, the Commission is seeking views on privacy, safety and security, security of critical IoT supported infrastructure, ethics, interoperability, governance and standards. The results of the consultation will feed into the Commission’s Recommendation on the IoT, which will be presented by summer 2013. Boosting the IoT is a priority for the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).


The Internet of today offers access to content and information through connection to web pages from multiple terminals like PCs, smart phones or TVs. The next evolution will make it possible to access information related to the physical environment through connected objects capable of sensing the environment and communicating through smart chips using Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) with or without human intervention.

There are endless examples of this evolution of networked devices: a car may be able to report the status of its various subsystems for remote diagnosis and maintenance using communicating embedded sensors; people on the move may receive information on their smartphone about the status of their home’s doors, shutters or even the contents of the fridge, transmitted by sensors in their home; a car may route you around a potential traffic jam; personal devices may convey the latest status of healthcare information of remotely cared patients to a central location.

This public consultation will feed into a new Recommendation on the IoT. This Recommendation will be the follow-up to the Commission’s Communication on IoT published in 2009 (see IP/09/952), which identified 14 lines of action for enabling Europe to design IoT technologies and systems compatible with its core values, such as the protection of privacy and personal data.

Useful links

The consultation document

2009 Communication on Internet of Things

Videos on Internet of Things:

Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) and the Internet of Things:

Digital Agenda website

European Commission Opens Anti-Trust Probe of Proposed Mobile Commerce Merger

Brussels, 13 April 2012 (Europa Press Release)- The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the proposed creation of a joint venture in the UK between Vodafone, Telefónica and Everything Everywhere in the field of mobile commerce.

The Commission’s preliminary investigation indicated potential competition concerns in the nascent markets of mobile payment applications supply (so-called “mobile wallets”), mobile advertising and related data analytics services, where the joint venture may have very high market shares. The opening of an in-depth inquiry does not prejudge the final result of the investigation. The Commission now has 90 working days, until 27 August 2012, to take a final decision on whether the proposed transaction would reduce effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA).

“The Commission is in favour of any initiative that will develop the promising mobile commerce sector in Europe and bring new and innovative payment and interactive advertising experience to consumers. At the same time, we need to make sure that competing services can keep emerging on this market, so that incentives to innovate remain and customers get the best mobile commerce services at the best cost.” said Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President in charge of Competition policy.

The Commission’s initial investigation revealed that the joint venture and its three parent companies may have the technical and commercial ability and incentive to block future competitors from offering their own mobile wallet services to customers in the UK, or to degrade the quality of these competing mobile wallets so that they become less attractive.

The Commission will now investigate the proposed acquisition in-depth to determine whether these initial concerns are confirmed or not.

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 6 March 2012.

Background on companies and markets

Telefónica UK, Vodafone UK, and Everything Everywhere – a joint venture created by the merger of T-Mobile UK and Orange UK that was cleared by the Commission in March 2010 – are three of the four mobile network operators in the UK.

The newly created joint venture would provide various mobile commerce services to businesses, including mobile payment transaction services, mobile marketing services, and associated data analytics services.

Merger control rules and procedures

The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.

The vast majority of mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has a total of 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).

There are currently five other phase II investigations.

The first one concerns the planned acquisition of Synthes by Johnson and Johnson, both US companies active in the area of orthopaedic medical devices (see IP/11/1306), with a deadline set for 26 April 2012.

The second was opened in November 2011 into the proposed acquisition of control over the sugar trader ED&F MAN by the German sugar and molasses producer Südzucker (see IP/11/1327), with a deadline set for 22 May 2012.

The third ongoing phase II investigation relates to the planned acquisition of joint control over a branch of the Italian state-owned ferry group Tirrenia by Compagnia Italiana di Navigazione of Italy (see IP/12/29). The deadline for a decision in the latter case was suspended under Article 11(3) of the Merger Regulation from 13 February 2012 to allow the parties to submit the necessary information for the assessment of the transaction.

The fourth ongoing phase II investigation was opened in March into the proposed acquisition of EMI’s recorded music business by Universal (see IP/12/311). The deadline for this investigation is 8 August 2012.

The fifth ongoing phase II investigation, also opened in March, concerns the proposed acquisition of control over Goodrich by United Technology in the aviation equipment sector (see IP/12/308), with a deadline set for 9 August 2012.