Government Review Urges Law Overhaul To Tackle Facebook, Google Domination

The growing desire by authorities around the world to reign in the tech firms continues with a British government review urging action against them.

The government review recommended an overhaul of British competition laws to tackle the “bullying tactics by market leaders”, and increase consumer choice.

It comes after one US presidential candidate in the United States, namely the Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren, this week urged the forced breakup of tech giants.

No competition

The British government review was chaired by Barack Obama’s former economic advisor, Harvard Professor Jason Furman.

The review’s key findings are that tech giants currently do not face enough competition; a new markets unit needed to set and enforce rules; existing competition rules need updating to tackle mergers and improve enforcement; and action is needed to increase choice and innovation for the consumer.

“Tech giants have become increasingly dominant and ministers must open the market up to increase consumer choice and give people greater control over their data,” said the review.

Professor Furman warned that UK competition rules must be updated to be fit for the digital age, and although he admitted to the benefits brought by technology firms, he felt the rules needed to evolve to keep pace with the market.

The review said that people should more control over their data, and users should be able to switch between platforms more easily.

It also advised a code of conduct so the largest digital companies know the competitive rules of the game.

Smaller companies should also have access to the data that social media platforms hold on their users, it recommended.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) needs more powers to examine tech mergers to see whether they are likely to damage future competition, innovation and consumer choice. The CMS should also launch a formal market study into the digital advertising market “which is dominated by two players and suffers from a lack of transparency.”

“The digital sector has created substantial benefits but these have come at the cost of increasing dominance of a few companies which is limiting competition and consumer choice and innovation. Some say this is inevitable or even desirable. I think the UK can do better,” said Professor Furman, chair of the independent review of competition in the digital sector.

“The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, was right to recognise there is a better way than just continuing with the status quo,” said Professor Furman. “My panel is outlining a balanced proposal to give people more control over their data, give small businesses more of a chance to enter and thrive, and create more predictability for the large digital companies. These recommendations will deliver an economic boost driven by UK tech start-ups and innovation that will give consumers greater choice and protection.”

Tech war

The British government review comes amid growing efforts by authorities around the world to clamp down on tech firms.

This has seen for example the introduction of a so called digital tax in France, with the UK, Spain, Italy and Germany set to follow suite.

Tech firms have also been criticised for their data handling policies and not doing enough to help in the fight against terrorism.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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