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UK Watchdog Pushes For Tighter Controls On US Big Tech

 |  February 3, 2020

The UK’s competition watchdog will push for tougher powers to regulate companies such as Google and Facebook following the UK’s official departure from the EU, and will pursue antitrust investigations against tech giants independently of the bloc.

“The upside [Brexit] is that you take back control, genuinely, of the decisions,” Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) head Andrea Coscelli told the Financial Times.

The comments by the CMA head came as the UK seeks a more active role in scrutinizing large mergers and tackling anti-competitive behaviour by US tech giants.

The regulator wants to take on the power to impose fines on companies engaging in behaviour that is harmful to consumers, without going through the courts as it is currently required to do. The watchdog is also petitioning to stop alleged anti-competitive conduct while probes are ongoing.

The CMA will take on a tough new workload after Brexit, shouldering responsibility for larger and more complex merger, cartel and competition enforcement cases that were previously the domain of the European Commission.  

It will also have to decide whether to follow regulators elsewhere when bringing cases and setting rules or to depart from the status quo.

“These are well-resourced, highly competent competition authorities in sizeable markets. They work quite significantly in parallel with the US agencies and the European Commission and others,” he said. The CMA’s tougher stance,  particularly against digital platforms, comes in spite of criticism that too much regulation could stifle innovation and policymakers’ hopes of attracting more tech investment in the wake of Brexit.