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New UK Tech Regulator Set To Curb Facebook And Google – Forbes


The UK is planning a new tech regulator to govern the activities of platforms such as Facebook and Google.

The new Digital Markets Unit will form part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and will enforce a new, not yet finalized, code of practice. It’s set to start operating in April next year.

“There is growing consensus in the UK and abroad that the concentration of power among a small number of tech companies is curtailing growth of the sector, reducing innovation and having negative impacts on the people and businesses that rely on them,” says digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

“It’s time to address that and unleash a new age of tech growth.”

The new code of conduct will mean consumers will be given more choice and control over how their data is used, says the government. Meanwhile, small businesses will be better able to promote their products online, with the code ensuring that platforms aren’t applying unfair terms, conditions or policies to business customers, including news publishers.

It will also govern commercial arrangements between publishers and platforms to ‘support the sustainability of the news publishing industry, helping to rebalance the relationship between publishers and online platforms’.

Platforms could be required to be more transparent about the services they provide and how they are using consumers’ data, and to give consumers a choice over whether to receive personalized advertising. They could also be prevented from placing restrictions on their customers that make it hard for them to use rival platforms.

In terms of enforcement, the government suggests that the new unit could be given powers to suspend, block and reverse the decisions of tech giants, order them to take certain actions to achieve compliance with the code, and impose financial penalties for non-compliance.

The move follows the publication of a CMA report that found that a lack of competition in digital markets is preventing the development of new services for consumers, and bringing higher prices for businesses using the platforms.

It concluded that, in the UK, both Google and Facebook are consistently earning profits well above what’s required to reward investors with a fair return – £1.7 billion more than the benchmark level in the case of Google, and £650 million more for Facebook.

Meanwhile, the number of adverts that consumers are exposed to on digital platforms is increasing, and search and social media markets are characterised by ‘take it or leave it’ terms that mean consumers have to share their data with platforms to use services.

“Digital platforms like Google and Facebook make a significant contribution to our economy and play a massive role in our day-to-day lives – whether it’s helping us stay in touch with our loved ones, share creative content or access the latest news,” says business secretary Alok Sharma.

“But the dominance of just a few big tech companies is leading to less innovation, higher advertising prices and less choice and control for consumers. Our new, pro-competition regime for digital markets will ensure consumers have choice, and mean smaller firms aren’t pushed out.”



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