UK targets Big Tech with new competition rules

The United Kingdom announced plans on Friday to create new rules that would limit the power of tech giants like Google and Facebook.

The announcement comes after the country’s competition authority published a report earlier in the year that warned these companies had become overly dominant, particularly in the online advertising industry, and that greater regulatory checks were required to give smaller firms the ability to compete.

London’s move — it will create a new team within the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, the local regulator, to oversee the writing of new rules by the end of 2021 — comes before the European Union will publish an overhaul of its own antitrust standards on December 9 to give the bloc’s enforcers greater powers over dominant firms.

American lawmakers similarly demanded further limits on Silicon Valley’s biggest names in a recent report, while U.S. federal and state agencies have either filed, or are expected to file in the coming weeks, lawsuits against Google and Facebook over accusations that they abused their online dominance for their own gain. Both companies deny any wrongdoing.

“There is growing consensus in the U.K. and abroad that the concentration of power among a small number of tech companies is curtailing growth of the sector,” Oliver Dowden, the country’s digital minister, said in a statement. “It’s time to address that and unleash a new age of tech growth.”

Despite the bullish statements, the U.K. must tread carefully between pushing for greater competition rules on companies that have a significant footprint in the country and enticing these firms to continue to invest after the Brexit transition deadline ends on December 31.

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