Big tech bashing laws finally heading for Parliament

big tech 1New laws to regulate the likes of Google, Amazon and Meta will go before Parliament today amid plans to give the UK’s competition tougher powers to crack down on big tech’s dominance of the advertising market as well as provide greater consumer protection.

The first reading of the Digital Markets, Competition & Consumers (DMCC) Bill has been a long time coming; the Competition & Markets Authority called for the legislation nearly three years ago, following a 12-month review into the industry.

Under the proposals, the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), which sits within the CMA, will get regulatory powers to target big tech firms and tackle “excessive dominance” of the sector. It will also be able to issue fines of up to 10% of firms’ global turnover if firms break the rules.

The Government maintains big tech has “stifled innovation and growth across the economy” and that these plans will help start-ups and smaller firms gain access to markets and consumers.

Last year the Government maintained that the DMU would also give consumers more decision-making power over how their data is used and handled by tech firms, including opting out of targeted personalised ads. It is not known whether this will be in the final text of the Bill, however.

Paul Scully, minister for tech and the digital economy, said: “Today’s announcement shows we are proudly pro-growth and pro-innovation across the board in the tech sector, seeking to open up new opportunities for all firms, however small or large they are, while empowering consumers.”

The Bill will also enable the Government to ban the practice of using fake reviews or advertising consumer reviews without taking reasonable steps to check they are genuine.

New rules will ensure consumers can exit subscriptions in a straightforward, cost-effective, and timely way and require that businesses issue a reminder to consumers when a free trial or introductory offer is coming to an end.

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said: “The new powers in this Bill help the CMA take swift, decisive action to tackle rip offs, protecting consumers whether they are shopping online or on the high street. The new fining powers will provide an important deterrent to businesses seeking to take advantage of people while also ensuring fair dealing businesses can thrive.

“The Bill will also strengthen the DMU, helping to ensure digital markets remain competitive and continue to benefit people, business, and the UK economy. We welcome its introduction to Parliament and look forward to it progressing.”

Even so, the move does raise questions over how big tech could appeal against decisions, with the Financial Times reporting that appeals are likely to have to be made through judicial review.

Mark Lewis, a senior consultant at Macfarlanes law firm, said: “It’s going to be a question not only of the detail in the legislation and the code of conduct, but we also have to ask whether a new regulator will have sufficient resources to take on big tech.”

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