The UK released a new austerity regulator on Wednesday, which it said will help ensure that technology giants such as Facebook and Google cannot use their market dominance to push out competition and stifle innovation online.
The Digital Markets Unit (DMU), based in the UK Competition and Markets AuthorityCMA) will control plans to provide more choice and control of consumer data, promote online competition and combat unfair practices that can often leave businesses and consumers with less choice and more expensive goods and services.
The UK government has said it has asked the new observer to start looking at how codes of conduct can work in practice to regulate the relationship between digital platforms and groups, such as small businesses that rely on them to advertise or use their services. to reach their customers.
“Today is an important milestone on the road to creating the world’s most competitive online markets, whose hearts are consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers,” said British Digital Minister Oliver Dowden.
“The Digital Markets Unit has been launched and I asked it to start by looking at the links between platforms and content providers and platforms and digital advertisers. This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values. ” he said.
The Minister asked the DMU to work with the state communications regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), to consider in particular how a code would manage the relationship between platforms and content providers, such as news publishers, including ensuring that they are as fair and as reasonable as possible.
This would pave the way for future rules of the road and go hand in hand with the broader work that the government is doing.
“This is a significant step towards our goal of improving consumer choice and providing better services at lower prices,” said UK Business Secretary Quasi Quarteng.
“The United Kingdom has built an enviable reputation as a global technology hub, and we want that to continue – but I am clear that the system must be fair to our smaller businesses, new entrepreneurs and the wider British public. “Our new, shamelessly pro-competitive regime will help limit the dominance of technology giants, launch a wave of innovation across the market and ensure that smaller companies are not pushed out,” he said.
The government has acknowledged that online platforms bring huge benefits to business and society and make work easier and faster and help people stay connected.
But there is a consensus that “concentration of power among a small number of companies” limits growth and has a negative impact on consumers and businesses that rely on them.
In November 2020, the UK government announced plans for DMU to introduce a new anti-competitive regime to cover platforms with significant market power – known as strategic market status.
Today, the new unit launched its first work program, as it launched in the “shadow” of an illegal form before the legislation gave it full powers.
Andrea Cocelli, CEO of CMA, said: “People who shop online and share information online should be able to enjoy the choices, secure data and fair prices that come with a dynamic and competitive industry.
“Today is another step towards creating a level playing field in digital markets. The DMU will be a leading center of expertise in this area, and when given the necessary powers, I am confident that it will play a key role in helping innovation thrive and deliver better results for customers. “
The government has said it will consult on the design of the new competition regime this year and will legislate the DMU as soon as parliamentary time allows.
The unit will work closely with CMA executive teams, which are already taking action to address the practices of digital companies that harm competition and lead to poor performance for consumers and businesses.
This includes taking enforcement action against Google and Appleand the consideration of mergers involving Facebook and eBay.
In addition, the government published a description of the function and role of the new unit for its first year of operation.
It involves working with business, government and academia to gather the necessary evidence, knowledge and expertise so that once the new regulatory regime for competition protection begins to work as quickly as possible.
As countries around the world struggle with these issues, the unit will coordinate with international partners, so the UK remains a world leader in shaping the debate in this area, a government statement said.
The UK is already discussing its approach to digital competition with international partners through bilateral engagement and as part of the G7 presidency.
The Digital Secretary will host a meeting of digital and technology ministers in April as he seeks to reach a consensus on co-ordinating better information exchange and unifying regulatory and policy approaches.
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