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Tech giants ‘on notice’ as new digital regulator arrives to tackle dominance

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter
·2-min read

Big tech firms are “on notice”, the Culture Secretary has warned as the UK’s new digital regulator gets started on its mission to curb market dominance.

Oliver Dowden believes the move will make it “healthier for the tech market itself” and hopes it will help address the “imbalance” between platforms and content providers, particularly news publishers who have struggled to compete.

The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) – which sits within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – aims to boost online competition for smaller players, as well as giving users more choice, control over their data and ultimately fair prices.

When asked whether the watchdog could take a similar approach to Australia, Mr Dowden said he did not expect it to go “jumping straight for a payment sort of regulation” but a payment mechanism could be “one of the things they may want to consider”.

“I think actually even the process of actually doing this forces some proper commercial negotiations between the platforms and the providers of content because ultimately I would rather the Government doesn’t have to intervene in this, they can provide a commercial solution but if they can’t, we stand ready to take the appropriate actions,” Mr Dowden told Sky News.

He also ruled out attempting to break up tech giants, at least from a “starting point”.

The DMU will not have full powers until it has devised codes of conduct, which will need to go before Parliament.

The Culture Secretary said the development is not designed to be anti-Google or anti-Facebook – largely considered two of the main targets – but about addressing their market dominance in some areas.

“What we’ve kind of seen with the big tech firms is they’re on notice now that they need to take action and the CMA will take that action to address some of these potential abuses of their market position,” he explained.

“I am pro tech but not pro abuse of dominant market positions by big tech companies, and I think in the long run it’s both healthier for the tech market itself and I think that creates more opportunities for entrance into the market.

“But also it’s healthier for the other markets affected by them, whether that is news publishing or advertising and particularly, say, with news publishing, I’m acutely conscious of how fortunate we are in the UK to have such a strong and vibrant free press – that doesn’t come for free, good journalism doesn’t come for free and one of the things that I would expect the unit to look at is how we make sure we have a fair market there and address it.”