Surge in Tech Companies’ Lobbying Spending in Brussels Amidst EU Digital Regulation Push

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Unprecedented Rise in Tech Lobbying Expenditure

Newly released data from NGOs Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and LobbyControl reveals a substantial increase in tech companies’ lobbying efforts in Brussels, totaling €113 million annually. This surge in lobbying spending reflects a 16.5% rise compared to the €97 million spent in 2021. Remarkably, 651 companies and associations jointly contribute to this sum, with the top 10 digital corporations alone accounting for more than a third, spending €40 million.

EU’s Digital Policies Drive Tech Industry’s Lobbying Push

The European Union’s groundbreaking legislation aimed at curbing Big Tech’s dominance—the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA)—coupled with the introduction of a new AI rulebook, have propelled technology companies to intensify their lobbying endeavors. CEO and LobbyControl emphasize the pressing need for stricter lobbying regulations to counterbalance the tech sector’s disproportionate influence.

Data Drawn from EU Transparency Register

This analysis draws its insights from the annual declarations filed by companies in the EU’s Transparency Register. While it offers a valuable snapshot, it does not encompass lobbying activities conducted by consultancies acting on behalf of corporations. Bran Vranken of Corporate Europe Observatory voices concerns over the undue influence of digital giants, asserting that their lobbying threatens crucial legislation and undermines democratic decision-making.

Tech Companies Favor Lobbying as Primary Regulatory Tool

Tech companies are increasingly turning to lobbying EU regulators as their preferred method to navigate the complex landscape of EU digital regulation. Alberto Alemanno, Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law at HEC Paris and founder of The Good Lobby, notes that Big Tech’s lobbying tactics are characterized by robust spending and assertive strategies. These companies leverage their technological expertise, asserting that they are best equipped to address regulatory concerns and ensure public protection.

Meta Leads the Lobbying Expenditure Race

Meta, formerly Facebook, emerges as the largest spender, allocating €8 million annually, up from €5.75 million in 2021. Apple closely follows, doubling its lobbying budget to €7 million from €3.5 million in the previous year. The top six lobbying spenders in Brussels include Meta, Apple, Bayer, Google, Shell, and Microsoft, collectively shaping the digital policy landscape in the EU. Meta also boasts the highest number of lobbyists on the ground in Brussels, with 17.05 full-time equivalents (FTEs).

Global Distribution of Tech Lobbying

Among the companies lobbying on EU digital policy, 20% originate from the United States, whereas fewer than 1% have headquarters in China or Hong Kong. Notably, Chinese tech companies like TikTok (€900,000) and Alibaba (€600,000) engage in EU lobbying but trail significantly behind their U.S. counterparts in budget allocation. Additionally, two EU-based companies, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom, have surged into the top 10 spenders, emphasizing the growing influence of European players.

In light of the overall increase in lobbying spending and the tech industry’s expanding market dominance, both NGOs advocate for stricter lobbying regulations in Brussels. They stress the importance of robust enforcement of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) to mitigate the influence of tech giants and ensure a level playing field in the digital sector.

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