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Competition watchdog opens probe into how UK should regulate AI

Its review will focus on the software “foundation models” behind chatbots such as ChatGPT.  (REUTERS)
Its review will focus on the software “foundation models” behind chatbots such as ChatGPT. (REUTERS)

The competition watchdog today kick-started a “review” process aimed at developing a robust framework of consumer protection rules governing companies’ use of artificial intelligence.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had been asked by the Government to launch a “fact-finding” mission in a fast-moving and under-regulated area of technology that has the potential for massive changes to business, lifestyles and society.

Its review will focus on the software “foundation models” behind chatbots such as ChatGPT. CMA chief Sarah Cardell said: ”AI has burst into the public consciousness in the past few months but has been on our radar for some time.

“It’s crucial that the potential benefits of this transformative technology are readily accessible to UK businesses and consumers while people remain protected from issues like false or misleading information

“Our goal is to help this new, rapidly scaling technology develop in ways that ensure open, competitive markets and effective consumer protection.”

Ministers have asked a range of regulators to look at how developments in AI technology can be kept within so called “guardrails”.

In March the Government published a White Paper setting out how “to drive responsible innovation and maintain public trust in this revolutionary technology”.

The UK has one of the biggest AI sectors in the world, employing over 50,000 people and contributing £3.7 billion to the economy last year.

Earlier this week “Godfather of AI” Geoffrey Hinton quit Google to speak out on the “dangers” of the technology.

The CMA said its initial review will examine how competitive markets for foundation models could evolve; explore the opportunities and risks for consumer protection and develop “guiding principles” for competition.

Alex Haffner, competition partner at London law firm Fladgate, said the case was unlikely to lead to enforcement action against big tech firms.

“The likely immediate outcome of the investigation will be more about the CMA getting a better understanding as to how AI is impacting on technological development and companies’ ability to leverage its benefits to provide better products and services to consumers, rather than taking any enforcement action against individual companies,” Haffner said.

Submissions can be made until June 2.