UK competition watchdog warns big tech firms of investigation

Wednesday 24th February 2021 09:32 EST

UK's competition watchdog is reportedly in the works to launch a series of antitrust investigations into big tech companies, including Google and Amazon this year. The Competition and Markets Authority will later this year become home to a new digital markets unit (DMU), which will police the internet companies and have powers to impose fines of billions of pounds.

In an interview with Financial Times, Andrea Coscelli said, “Until we have these new legal powers, if we want to achieve impact for consumers in the UK, we need to use our current (tools). There are quite a few cases against the digital platforms in Brussels today, and a number of these include the UK market.” The CMA's investigations will be independent after Brexit, however, Coscelli said the UK will continue to work alongside Brussels on some joint antitrust investigations at least until next year.

The DMU will enforce a code based on “fair trading, trust and transparency” that will apply to companies deemed to have strategic market status. This could include, for example, assessing whether the way the tech giants trade with publishers is on terms fair enough to prevent them “from taking advantage of power and position.”

The UK government said it was concerned about the situation in Australia and confirmed that the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, would meet Facebook bosses this week. A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said, “We are obviously concerned about access to news being restricted in Australia. As we always have done, we will be robust in defending free speech and journalism.”

Coscelli said, “We are actively scanning the players, the complaints we have received, the cases that others are doing, what could be done in parallel with others, where are the gaps in the work the European Commission is doing. We certainly expect to open more cases during the course of this year.”

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