UK Wants New Regulator to Tackle Big Tech

The U.K. is creating a regulator overseeing tech giants like Amazon and Google.

Draft legislation will make the new unit an arm of the country’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and give it powers specifically to target giant tech companies, the Financial Times (FT) reported Saturday (April 22), citing people familiar with the plans.

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, seen by the FT, will give the regulator authority over tech companies that generate at least £25 billion ($202 billion) in worldwide turnover (or £1 billion in the U.K.)

According to the report, the regulator would target only companies with “entrenched power” in at least one digital market. Companies that breach the regulator’s rules could be fined up to 10% of their global turnover.

A pair of officials told the FT the legislation will be published this week, while a government spokesperson said the bill would be put before parliament soon without confirming a date.

The legislation is happening as Big Tech companies are facing increased scrutiny around the world, including in the U.K.

For example, the CMA recently won a victory in a fight against Google, which has agreed to allow developers to use third-party payment processors for in-app transactions.

That would be a change from the system Google has now, in which developers have to use its in-house billing system, making the company the subject of a CMA antitrust investigation.

“Google’s complete control over in-app payments raised concerns this unfairly restricted app developers — by forcing them to use Google Play’s billing system — putting distance between them and their customers and reducing competition, to the detriment of Google Play users,” Ann Pope, the CMA’s antitrust director, said last week.

Meanwhile, the U.K. is also getting closer to new regulations for the cryptocurrency sector, though that could take a bit longer.

In a CNBC interview last week, Andrew Griffith, economic secretary to the U.K. Treasury, said specific crypto regulation could be enacted in the next year.

“We’ve got control back of our rulebook, not something the U.K. has had for decades,” Griffith said, referring to his country’s leaving of the European Union.

“So we’ve got the ability to move in an agile and proportionate way. And I’m definitely keen to make the most of that opportunity.”