UK ‘falls behind EU on tech firm curbs’ and risks being a ‘rule-taker’ from Brussels, expert warns 


UK ‘falls behind EU on tech firm curbs’ and risks being a ‘rule-taker’ from Brussels, expert warns

  • The UK’s Digital Markets Unit was launched in shadow form over a year ago
  • But it is likely to remain toothless until at least 2023, lagging behind the EU
  • EU has revealed its own rules that will ban anti-competitive behaviour amid tech giants which is set to come into force by autumn

Britain risks being a ‘rule-taker’ from Brussels as it tries to rein in tech giants due to the stalled rollout of the UK’s digital regulator, the head of the competition watchdog has warned.

The Digital Markets Unit was launched in shadow form over a year ago and was set to lead the world in tackling the dominance of online firms such as Google.

But campaigners were frustrated when legislation needed to empower it was only announced in draft form in the Queen‘s Speech last month, meaning it is likely to remain toothless until at least 2023. 

Meanwhile, the EU has revealed its own rules that will ban anti-competitive behaviour by the world’s biggest search engines – set to come into force by autumn.

Andrea Coscelli, outgoing chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, within which the DMU is set up, said tech firms were already investing to adapt to the new laws set by Brussels.

Mr Coscelli – who is leaving the post next month – said the 70 staff already employed by the DMU would focus on existing probes into Google, Apple and Meta

Mr Coscelli – who is leaving the post next month – said the 70 staff already employed by the DMU would focus on existing probes into Google, Apple and Meta

He told the Financial Times: ‘As a country we are in a great place to set up smart, pro-business, pro-competitive rules of the road in a number of these areas… If we don’t, then in practice we become a rule-taker because of the cost of divergence. 

‘The… frustration is that we were [initially] ahead of the European legislation [in drafting the rules]… we’re now behind.’

Mr Coscelli – who is leaving the post next month – said the 70 staff already employed by the DMU would focus on existing probes into Google, Apple and Meta.

The Apple logo adorns the facade of a retail store

The logo for Google LLC is seen at the Google Store

The Digital Markets Unit was launched in shadow form over a year ago and was set to lead the world in tackling the dominance of online firms such as Google and Apple

The draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will bring in tough new laws to stop tech giants exploiting consumers and rivals. 

It is understood the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is aiming to publish the Bill this autumn but it will need to go through Parliament later.

The EU’s Digital Markets Act was first proposed in December 2020 – four months before the DMU was launched – and was agreed last month. 

It will now have to be approved by the European Council and the European Parliament.

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