Called the Digital Markets Unit (DMU) and based in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the regulator aims to give consumers more choice and control over their data, promote online competition and crack down on unfair practices.
Online platforms bring huge benefits for businesses and society. They make work easier and quicker and help people stay in touch. But there is a consensus that the concentration of power among a small number of firms is curtailing growth and having negative impacts on consumers and businesses which rely on them, claims the government.
The government has asked the Digital Markets Unit to begin looking at how codes of conduct could work in practice to govern the relationship between digital platforms and groups such as small businesses which rely on them to advertise or use their services to reach their customers. It will take a sector-neutral approach in examining the role of platforms across a range of digital markets, with a view to promoting competition.
The Digital Secretary has asked it to work with the communications regulator Ofcom to look specifically at how a code would govern the relationships between platforms and content providers such as news publishers, including to ensure they are as fair and reasonable as possible.
This would, it is hoped, pave the way for the future rules of the road and is alongside the wider work being done by the government to boost the sustainability of the press.
Says Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden:
“Today is a major milestone in the path to creating the world’s most competitive online markets, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at their heart.
“The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I’ve asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers.
“This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data, and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values.
The unit will work closely with the CMA enforcement teams already taking action to address practices by digital firms, which harm competition and lead to poor outcomes for consumers and businesses. This includes taking enforcement action against Google and Apple, and scrutinising mergers involving Facebook and eBay.
The Digital Markets Unit will work closely with important regulators including the Information Commissioner’s Office, Ofcom and the Financial Conduct Authority so that consumers and businesses are comprehensively protected and the new regime is coherent and effective.
It will be led by Will Hayter, who takes over following his work at the Cabinet Office supporting the UK’s transition out of the EU.