Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and other tech firms are spending more than €97m on lobbying the EU each year, a new report has revealed.
Google is the single biggest spender, at €5.75m. It is closely followed by Facebook (€5.55m) and Microsoft (€5.25m).
They are among 10 companies – along with Apple, Huawei, Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, IBM and Vodafone – that account for almost one-third of the total tech sector spend on lobbying and employ more than 140 lobbyists between them.
With a spend of more than €97m, tech is the “biggest lobby sector in the EU by spending, ahead of pharma, fossil fuels, finance, or chemicals.”
The report, released this week, cites how the top 10 digital platforms and infrastructure companies spend €32.75m between them on lobbying – far more than the top 10 chemical companies (€17.75m) and the top financial firms (€12m).
It warns that the amount tech firms spend on lobbying means that not only are they dominating the debate, but “they are being given disproportionate access to policymakers”.
The report states:“Big Tech companies don’t just lobby on their own behalf; they also employ an extensive network of lobby groups, consultancies, and law firms representing their interests, not to mention a large number of think tanks and other groups financed by them.”
The EU’s plans to bring in the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act “are a political opportunity to limit the power of large digital platforms”.
And the “real interest” of big tech is to “avoid future regulations”, according to the report.
It argues that the “lobby firepower of big tech and the digital industry as a whole mirrors the sectors’ huge and growing role in society”.
The report states: “It is remarkable and should be a cause of concern that the platforms can use this firepower to ensure their voices are heard – over countervailing and critical voices – in the debate over how to construct new rules for digital platforms.”
It concludes that the “huge concentration of economic and lobby power is poison to our democracy”, which is why better rules are needed to “limit the lobbying of the digital industry and to make it more transparent”.
Many of the tech companies approached by PRWeek declined to comment. However, in a statement, Microsoft said: “The European Union has been and remains an important stakeholder for Microsoft. We seek to be a constructive and transparent partner to European policymakers.”