Tech giants face new competition to tackle their data dominance

A new competition regime has been announced to keep the dominance and power of platforms such as Google and Facebook in check.

The Digital Markets Unit will seek to give people more choice and control over their data, and to ensure that companies are treated fairly.

A legal code of conduct can force platforms to be more transparent about the services they provide and how they handle consumer data.

The new unit – which will be set up within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and will coordinate with regulators including Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – is expected to launch in April.

Powers have been proposed to suspend, block, and reverse decisions made by tech giants, as well as the ability to order them to take certain actions to achieve compliance with the code, with the threat of financial penalties for non-compliance. rules.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I am unashamedly pro-tech and the services of digital platforms are positively transforming the economy – with tremendous benefits for businesses, consumers and society.

“But there is a growing consensus in the UK and abroad that the concentration of power among a small number of technology companies is slowing down industry growth, diminishing innovation and negatively impacting the people and businesses that depend on them.

“It’s time to tackle that and unleash a new era of technological growth.”

Company Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Digital platforms such as Google and Facebook are important contributors to our economy and play a huge role in our daily lives – whether it helps us stay in touch with our loved ones, share creative content or access it. latest news.

“But the dominance of only a few major technology companies is leading to less innovation, higher ad prices and less choice and control for consumers.

“Our new, pro-competitive digital market regime will ensure consumer choice and means smaller companies will not be pushed out.”

Warning of “fundamental imbalance of power”

The code could be used to ensure that platforms do not apply unfair terms, especially against tense news publishers who have long lost a greater share of digital advertising in the face of dominant tech giants.

It comes as the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee warned that a “fundamental power imbalance” between news publishers and platforms must be overcome to save journalism from an “existential threat.”

“Publishers need many more platforms than the platforms and are being disadvantaged by a dysfunctional online advertising market,” said Lord Gilbert of Panteg.

“It is essential that the government takes swift action to remedy this and that a Digital Markets Unit is urgently established.”

Peers also urged the government to give Ofcom greater powers to regulate the online news content of public broadcasters, which is not currently within its remit, and to ensure that it oversees the accuracy and impartiality of the public posts on social media from their journalists.