Plans for a new watchdog to counter market dominance by the likes of Facebook and Google – revealed last year by the government – appear to have been shelved.
Presented by the government as a “tough new regulator” when announced in April 2021the Digital Markets Unit was created to ensure that Big Tech cannot exploit its position to crowd out the competition and stifle online innovation.
Headquartered within the Competition and Markets Authority – the body that has the power to block agreements for competition reasons to safeguard the interests of the public – it was to be financed by an extra £ 20 million handed over to CMA for the financial year 2021/22 to establish new units.
However, according to a Financial Times report, the government’s new legislative program that will be revealed in the Queen’s speech on May 10 is not expected to give the body statutory powers.
The DMU recruited 60 employees at its “shadow” launch last year and prepared bespoke codes of conduct for companies like Google and Facebook as it sought to understand how it will work in practice.
The body also aimed to introduce “pro-competitive” interventions, such as forcing companies to share data with each other and coordinate with international partners.
The lack of statutory powers for unity would render it unable to impose sanctions against tech companies.
Julian Knight, Tory chairman of the Commons’ Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said that if legislation to authorize the regulator of technology had not been in the Queen’s speech, it “would damage the credibility of the community. whole enterprise “.
“It would be a major blow to the UK’s ability to regulate these sectors,” he told the FT.
The government has already withdrawn a bill from the Queen’s speech on corporate governance and audit reform following numerous corporate scandals.
The FT quoted Tory officials as saying Boris Johnson “was cooling state intervention in the economy.” David Canzini, the prime minister’s deputy chief of staff, allegedly told his colleagues “that conservative governments do not legislate for prosperity and growth”.
It looks like a big climb after ministers trumpeted the DMU mission statement last year.
At the time of the shadow launch, then-digital secretary Oliver Dowden said, “Today is a milestone on the path to creating the world’s most competitive online marketplaces, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at the center … this will open the door. road to developing new digital services and lower prices, gives consumers more choice and control over their data and supports our information sector, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values. ”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said at the time, “This is a significant step towards our goal of improving consumer choice and providing better services at lower prices. The UK has built an enviable reputation as a global technology hub and we want it to continue, but I am clear that the system must be fair to our small businesses, new entrepreneurs and the wider UK audience.
“Our new shamelessly pro-competitive regime will help curb the dominance of tech giants, unleash a wave of innovation across the market, and ensure smaller companies don’t get kicked out.”
The DMU is led by Will Hayter, who joined after his work at the Cabinet Office in support of the UK’s transition out of the EU.
Conservative Government “Rolls Out Plans for Big Tech Watchdog”
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