A special regulator designed to prevent tech giants including Facebook and Google from exploiting their market dominance has been established in the UK.
The move is being touted as a major milestone for online market reform.
The special watchdog, dubbed Digital Markets Unit (DMU) sits within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and is tasked with developing plans to give consumers more choice and control over their data, promote online competition and crackdown on unfair practices.
The UK government first drop the hint about DMU in November 2020 as part of a wider aim to enforce a new pro-competition regime covering platforms deemed to hold considerable market power.
The DMU is already exploring how codes of conduct could work in practice to govern the relationship between digital platforms and groups including small businesses, which rely on them to advertise or use their services.
Its overall aim is to promote competition and the DMU will work with Ofcom to develop guidelines to govern the relationship between online platforms and news publishers, ensuring a fair and reasonable policy.
UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden stated that there is a growing concern in both the UK and around the world 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.
“It’s time to address that and unleash a new age of tech growth – this will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more control over their data and support the news industry,” he added.
In the longer term, the unit is also to work closely with CMA enforcement teams on moves already underway to address practices by digital companies, including “taking enforcement action against Google and Apple and scrutinizing mergers involving Facebook and eBay”.
As countries around the world grapple with unfair tech practices, the unit will also coordinate with international partners.
Oliver Dowden however acknowledged that move is like to face some opposition from other countries, citing the example of France, where the US threatened to increase taxes on French imports in retaliation to tougher regulations on US tech giants in France.