UK's new digital regulator goes live

07 April 2021 | Melanie Mingas

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The UK's newest regulator has opened for business, this time with big tech in the cross hairs.

The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) – part of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) – was established to regulate the likes of Google and Facebook, particularly around market dominance and anti-competitive behaviour. DMU will work with existing regulators Ofcom, the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Financial Conduct Authority to "ensure consumers and small businesses aren’t disadvantaged".

Led by Will Hayter – who takes over following his work at the Cabinet Office supporting the UK’s transition out of the EU – the unit will enforce a "new pro-competition regime" initially prioritising user protections and data security, while tackling issues in digital advertising. 

Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Today is a major milestone in the path to creating the world’s most competitive online markets, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at their heart.

"This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data, and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values."

The unit will begin by assessing the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers, however, once legislation is passed, DMU will have the power to "suspend, block and reverse decisions of tech giants, order them to take certain actions to achieve compliance with the code, and impose financial penalties for non-compliance".

The creation of the DMU was one of six recommendations put forward in the Furman Review, published last year. The British government said it supports its wider digital policy and regulatory interventions, including the National Data Strategy and the Online Harms Bill.

Studies by the CMA have found that a lack of competition in digital markets reduces innovation, increases prices for goods and services, reduces consumer control and causes "broader social harm".