A new UK public body that will be responsible for helping regulate the most powerful companies in the digital sector to ensure competition thrives online and consumers of digital services have more choice and control over their data has been launched today.
The Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which was announced in November last year – following a number of market analyzes and studies examining concerns about the concentration of power in the market digital – does not yet have statutory powers, but the government has announced that it will consult on the design of the new ‘pro-competition regime’ this year and legislate to put the DMU statutory as soon as parliamentary time permits.
Concerns about the market power of adtech giants Facebook and Google are key drivers of regulatory development.
As a first step, the unit will examine how codes of conduct might work to govern the relationship between digital platforms and third parties such as small businesses that rely on them to advertise or use their services to reach out to them. customers – to fuel future digital legislation. .
The role of powerful online access control intermediaries is also being targeted by European Union lawmakers who proposed legislation late last year, which also aims to create a regulatory framework capable of securing transactions. fairness between the giants of the platforms and the small entities that do business on their terms.
The UK government said today that DMU will take a sector-neutral approach by examining the role of platforms in a range of digital markets, with a view to promoting competition.
The unit has been asked to work with the communications watchdog Ofcom, which the government designated last year as its choice to regulate social media platforms under planned legislation to be introduced this year. year (aka the Online Security Bill, as it is now called).
While this upcoming legislation aims to regulate a very wide range of harms online that can affect consumers – from bullying and hate speech to child sexual exploitation and other speech-related issues ( raising many controversies and specific concerns regarding the associated implications for privacy and security) – the DMU focuses on the impacts on business and consumer controls, which can also have implications for competition in digital markets.
As part of its first work program, the government said the Secretary of State for Digital asked DMU to work with Ofcom to specifically consider how a code would govern the relationship between platforms and vendors. of content such as news publishers – “including they’re as fair and reasonable as possible,” as its press release puts it.
This suggests that the DMU will take a close look at recent legislation passed in Australia – which requires platforms to negotiate with news publishers to pay for the reuse of their content.
Earlier this year, the head of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), on which the DMU will sit, told the BBC that Australia’s approach to having arbitration support mandatory in the event of failure of trade negotiations between tech giants and publishers is an “approach.”
The DMU will also work closely with the CMA’s law enforcement division – which currently has a number of investigations open into the tech giants, including reviewing complaints against Apple and Google; and an in-depth investigation into the acquisition of Giphy by Facebook.
Other UK regulators that the government has said the DMU will work closely with include the Data Protection Watchdog (ICO) and the Financial Conduct Authority.
He also said the unit would coordinate with international partners as well, given that digital competition is an issue that is naturally global in nature – adding that it is already discussing its approach as part of a bilateral engagement and as part of his G7 presidency.
“The digital secretary will organize a meeting of digital and technology ministers in April as he seeks to establish a consensus for coordination on better information sharing and a reconciliation of regulatory and political approaches,” he said. he adds.
The DMU will be headed by Will Hayter, who will take on an interim chief position in early May after a stint in the Cabinet Office working on the Brexit transition policy. Previously, he worked for several years at CMU and also at Ofcom, among others in regulatory policy.