The UK will get a new tech watchdog next year in an effort to stop giants like Google and Facebook from riding roughshod over consumers and small businesses.
Ministers have launched the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) as part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to create and oversee a new code of practice on digital platforms.
One of the aims of the new regime, when it starts up in April, is to support the news industry by rebalancing the relationship between publishers and platforms.
Google, which is part of Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) dominate digital advertising, accounting for around 80% of the £14bn spent in 2019, according to the CMA, which in July recommended the creation of a new pro-competition regulatory regime for online platforms.
Following a long study of the industry, the watchdog concluded that the dominance of Google and Facebook meant there was a lack of transparency that had the potential to create or exacerbate a number of competition problems.
In a statement, Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Digital platforms like Google and Facebook make a significant contribution to our economy and play a massive role in our day-to-day lives – whether it’s helping us stay in touch with our loved ones, share creative content or access the latest news.
“But the dominance of just a few big tech companies is leading to less innovation, higher advertising prices and less choice and control for consumers. Our new, pro-competition regime for digital markets will ensure consumers have choice, and mean smaller firms aren’t pushed out.”
The creation of the DMU, which will co-ordinate with other regulatory bodies Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), coincides with Britain leaving the EU regulatory regime and also a wider attempted crackdown on the power of the internet giants in many countries.
One of its first jobs could be an investigation into Google, where the CMA said earlier this week that it had received a complaint as part of its study into online platforms and digital advertising.