UK’s Digital Markets Unit set to become a real Big Tech regulator

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UK's Digital Markets Unit set to become a real Big Tech regulator

UK Parliament [Pixabay]

The UK may finally give some teeth to its Digital Markets Unit, with a bill set to be introduced to bestow regulatory powers to it for policing Apple and big tech firms.

The UK’s Digital Markets Unit, announced in 2020 and formed in 2021, was intended to be a regulator for Big Tech. While legislation to grant it powers in 2022 was delayed, the unit may finally get them in the coming months.

A draft bill will be published in the week beginning April 24, two officials told the Financial Times. While the government didn’t disclose when it would take place, the bill will be introduced to parliament “soon.”

The draft bill will give the Digital Markets Unit, part of the Competition and Markets Authority, a statutory footing along with regulatory powers to target Big Tech firms, the sources said.

Titled the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers bill, the draft seen by the publication will go after tech companies generating either 25 billion pounds ($31.1 billion) in global turnover, or 1 billion pounds ($1.24 billion) in the UK alone. It will also only target companies with “entrenched power in at least one digital market.”

If found in breach of any rules, firms can be penalized up to 10% of global turnover, and potentially 5% of daily global turnover for each day offenses continue through. Executives will also potentially face fines if companies fail to comply with the unit’s requests for information.

Appeals against the unit’s decisions will go through the same process as challenging a CMA ruling, namely seeking a judicial review. This will apparently be an issue for tech companies, due to a higher burden of proof needed.

Despite having a big responsibility, the Digital Markets Unit is still fairly small. In 2021, it had 60 staff members, and as of 2023, it has a headcount of 70.

Previously, the UK said the unit will “level the playing field” in the tech industry, as it goes after “predatory practices” of tech companies.

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