Government to crack down on dominance of BigTech

The government has announced its final plans for how the new digital markets regulator will tackle the dominance of technology giants like Facebook and Google.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the new rules, which follow a consultation issued last year, would protect small businesses from ‘predatory practices’ and give consumers more control over their online experiences.

The government has confirmed that the new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) will have the power to fine up to 10 per cent of global turnover for breaches and senior tech bosses will face “tough penalties” if their companies do not comply with the rules.

The newly established regulator will also be able to make sure that news publishers and advertisers are given a fair price for content featuring on BigTech platforms.

The government warned that weakened competition in the market is harming consumers through higher prices, quoting figures from the Competition and Markets Authority which estimates Google and Facebook made excess UK profits of £2.4 billion in 2018.

“Technology has revolutionised the way thousands of UK firms do business - helping them reach new customers and putting a range of instant online services at people’s fingertips,” said digital minister, Chris Philp. “But the dominance of a few tech giants is crowding out competition and stifling innovation.

“We want to level the playing field and we are arming this new tech regulator with a range of powers to generate lower prices, better choice and more control for consumers while backing content creators, innovators and publishers, including in our vital news industry.”

The new rules will aim to make it easier for people to switch between Apple iOS and Android phones, as well as between social media accounts, without losing their data and messages.

The government said that smartphone users could also get “more choice of which search engines they have access to, more choice of social media platforms as new entrants enter the market, and more control over how their data is used by companies”.

It promised that tens of thousands of UK small and medium-size businesses will “get a better deal” from large tech brands, which they rely on to trade online. This could include technology companies needing to warn smaller firms about changes to their algorithms which drive traffic and revenues.

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