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MPs ask government to give regulator teeth to take on Big Tech

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Image credit: Ascannio via Shutterstock

The government must grant UK regulators heightened powers to keep Big Tech in check, according to a new report from MPs within the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.

In its report, the committee called on the government to follow through with the heavily delayed plans to turn the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) into a fully operational competition regulator that can focus on reining in power abuses from tech giants.

Established in 2021 as a non-statutory body within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the DMU was formed to create a regulatory regime specifically tasked with providing the biggest tech firms with codes of conduct.

The DMU in its current form has no power to fulfill its intended purpose and requires legislation, in the form of the proposed Digital Markets Competition and Consumer Bill, mentioned briefly during the Queen’s Speech, to properly begin its work.

“The Competition, Consumer and Digital Markets Bill has wide support and should be prioritised, especially given the difficulty the Government currently has at passing other laws which are more controversial,” said BEIS Committee chair Darren Jones.

“There are many areas in the economy where stronger competition is required in the interests of consumers, small business and economic growth and this bill is an essential stepping stone to driving this issue forward.”

Jones added that this marked the government’s continued failure to capitalise on the “so-called ‘Brexit opportunities’ that were promised to level up their local community”.

The BEIS Committee report comes as the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has launched a discussion on the potential competitive impacts of Big Tech on financial services.

The FCA is seeking views on how the presence of tech giants in the UK might disrupt the nation’s financial markets.

“In recent years, Big Tech’s entry into financial services, in the UK and elsewhere, has demonstrated their potential to disrupt established markets, drive innovation and reduce costs for consumers,” said Sheldon Mills, executive director of consumers and competition at the FCA.

“We want to make sure that these benefits are fully realised while, at the same time, ensuring good consumer and market outcomes. This is vital when we consider the role of Big Tech firms in the provision of key technological infrastructure like cloud services.”

Ofcom recently launched a study looking at the dominance of US giants in the cloud computing market.