More than 100 countries have agreed to join a bloc of more than 70 countries to set new rules to crack down on corporate monopolies.
The European Union’s (EU) antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, said the move will boost transparency and encourage competition in Europe’s economy.
“These rules will open up the markets in many ways and will give greater incentive for companies to invest, innovate and compete in a more efficient way,” she said.
“We need to ensure that the rules of the road, in particular, are not too burdensome.”
The move was welcomed by campaigners for more transparent markets, such as the European Consumer and Consumer Centre, which said the new rules will give consumers more choice and greater choice of suppliers.
“The new rules are a great start to bringing about more competitive and better-performing markets for consumers and businesses,” said the group’s Europe director, Jean-Claude Juncker.
But other organisations and business groups have criticised the move, arguing it will only benefit a few dominant firms and that the new rule-making process is too long and too complex.
Vestager said the rules would help consumers and firms.
“This is a really big step forward in ensuring the free flow of information in Europe and in ensuring that consumers have a fair playing field,” she told reporters on Thursday.
The rules will go into effect on April 1, with the final rules due in late 2019.
More than 200 countries and territories have already joined the group, with more expected to follow suit.
Vestagseager said this was the biggest single initiative of its kind in Europe, and that it had the support of the governments of Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.
“The EU has a long tradition of setting rules and rules are being established with the intention to deliver these new rules in a timely and transparent manner,” she added.
The new regulations are designed to give consumers a clearer choice of goods and services, including more transparency on prices, product information, delivery times and price tags.
They will also require companies to disclose their costs of goods sold and the amount they pay for them, and will require them to provide information on how many of their products have been made in different locations.
They will cover all aspects of business and competitive practices, and they will apply to businesses in the EU, but also to businesses that operate across borders, for example in the US, China, India and Japan.
The move is expected to cost the EU some €5 billion (£4.5 billion) a year, and it is set to lead to an economic boost of €10 billion a year.
“If we can reduce the costs and the costs of competition, then the economic benefits will be even more significant,” said European Commission Vice President Pierre Moscovici.
More: The European Commission has warned the move could lead to a “significant increase in the use of intellectual property rights” by multinational companies.
The new EU rules will not affect existing laws that already require firms to disclose price tags, but the new regulation will require all major players to post their prices on their websites and online platforms.
The rules also will require smaller companies to make the same disclosures as their bigger rivals.