‘Unlocking Digital Competition’ report calls for change

Written by Our News Team, DigitalAgenda

A study commission by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and published today, concludes that the big tech platforms should be opened up to greater competition. The report was led by Barack Obama’s former economic advisor and Harvard Professor Jason Furman.

The Report was set up to make recommendations for changes to the UK’s competition framework that are needed to face the economic challenges posed by digital markets, in the UK and internationally. The report contains recommendations on updating the rules governing merger and antitrust enforcement, as well as proposing a bold set of pro-competition measures to open up digital markets.

The report acknowledges that the digital sector offers great opportunity for employment and economic growth for the UK economy, but concludes that the market is out of balance. It recommends there be quicker and simpler ways for regulators to hold large tech companies to account, when they abuse their positions of power, for example when they give preferential treatment to companies it owns, or driving out competitors with predatory pricing.

The pro-competition recommendations in the report include:

  • People should be given more control over their own data to allow them to switch platforms more easily;
  • Competition rules be brought up to date and a new team created with expertise in behavioural science as well as technology and economics;
  • Regulators should have greater powers to tackle anti-competitive practices;
  • The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should be given more scope to block mergers likely to be anticompetitive; and
  • The largest companies should be forced to provide access to key data sets to smaller firms

Julian David at TechUK said: “Bad regulation can be as big a barrier to competition and innovation as monopolistic activities.”, but warned that those involved in digital policy needed to have sufficient expertise for “getting technical decisions right” adding that it was important that “the UK ensure its regulatory framework was not in conflict with that in other leading digital economies.”

Robin Knowles, CEO of Digital Leaders, welcomed the report and its initial conclusions, which he feels are similar in approach to some of the changes that the FCA has made around Open Banking.

“This report offers real and practical ideas on how to begin the better regulation of the ownership of users’ data and improved competition in the marketplace currently dominated by a few big US firms”, he says. “Of course we now need to await the government response later in the year, but I am sure this report and many of its ideas will be at the centre of the debate at DigitalAgenda’s Power and Responsibility Summit this October”.

A copy of the report is available here.


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