UK fires starting gun on tech antitrust reform

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The UK competition regulator will examine online advertising as a “first step” to reframing competition policy in the tech sector, the UK chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

He fired the starting gun on a possible overhaul of antitrust policy for the tech industry on Wednesday as part of a broader statement setting out the UK’s economic policy.

The announcement was made the same day that a panel of experts led by Jason Furman, an adviser to former US president Barack Obama, said big tech companies had used their dominance to stifle competition in the UK and unfairly boost profits.

The Furman review suggested that big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft should be forced to share the data of their users so that rival companies could develop their own platforms and applications.

Tech companies have come under the spotlight over competition issues, with regulators including the UK Competition and Markets Authority increasingly turning their attention to the dominance of big platforms.

Europe’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, well known for taking action against US tech giants, has put together a task force of academics to produce a report by the end of the month.

The digital advertising market, which is made up of adtech groups, data analytics firms, credit reference agencies and data brokers, is also facing investigations from data protection regulators amid accusations that they build up extensive profiles of individuals.

The Furman review recommended a new competition regulator for the tech sector. The UK government is also preparing to announce its plan for regulating the industry and it is not clear how supervision of digital markets will eventually be allocated.

More here from one of the panel members.

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