UK Watchdog Seeks Tighter Grip On US Big Tech

UK Watchdog Seeks Tighter Grip On US Big Tech

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is pushing for more leeway to go after U.S. Big Tech firms in the wake of Brexit, the Financial Times reported on Monday (Feb. 3).

Separately from Brussels, the U.S. watchdog will advance antitrust probes against U.S. tech giants, but will also push for other agencies to go after firms like Google and Facebook.

“The upside [of the U.K. leaving the EU] is that you take back control – genuinely – of the decisions,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, told FT.

Coscelli’s remarks coincide with the U.K.’s push for a bigger role in mergers and anti-competitive practices by U.S. Big Tech firms.

The watchdog wants the authority to directly levy fines and bypass the courts. The CMA is also asking for permission to immediately halt suspected anti-competitive practices while the investigations are taking place.

Following Brexit, the CMA is carrying a bigger caseload with more accountability on complicated mergers, cases that used to be handled by the European Commission.

Coscelli noted that the U.K. previously turned to countries like Canada and Australia for enforcement guidance. He added that Britain was “in a very strong position to lead” competition policy globally.

“These are well-resourced, highly competent competition authorities in sizeable markets. They work quite significantly in parallel with the U.S. agencies and the European Commission and others,” he said.

Coscelli said the CMA is putting resources into examining mergers and acquisitions between big firms and small rivals. The CMA’s stronger position against digital platforms intersects with complaints about regulation inhibiting ingenuity and policymakers’ desire to entice expanded tech capital.

Deals being scrutinized by the CMA include Google’s proposed $2.6 billion purchase of Looker and Amazon’s Deliveroo investment.

“When we look at the current deals, we have a higher degree of skepticism,” said Coscelli. “The argument that companies were making seven or eight years ago was that it was very difficult to predict how it was going to play out. We now realize there are strong barriers to entry and expansion.”

Scrutiny of U.S. Big Tech started heating up in July. The CMA is in the midst of analyzing the information gathered during a study that examined the dominance larger tech firms have over sectors such as advertising. A final report about the study’s results is expected in July of 2020.


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