Britain to give new tech regulator statutory powers

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FILe PHOTO: Union Jack flags fly around the Big Ben clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) – Britain will give statutory powers to a new technology regulator so it can enforce pro-competition rules and prevent tech giants including Google (GOOGL.O) and Facebook (FB.O) from using their dominance to push out smaller firms and disadvantage consumers.

“The government will introduce legislation to put the Digital Markets Unit on a statutory footing in due course,” the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said in a statement on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the DCMS declined to comment when asked if legislation will be included in the government’s programme for the coming year, due to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech on May 10. read more

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The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) was launched in non-statutory form within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last year to make sure tech companies don’t abuse their market power. The change would give the unit stronger enforcement powers.

The DCMS said its proposals would make it easier for people to switch between Apple (AAPL.O) iOS and Android phones or between social media accounts without losing their data.

Smartphone users could get more choice of search engines and social media platforms and more control over how their data is used by companies.

The DCMS said small and medium-size businesses would get better pricing from big tech firms that they use to trade online. The firms would need to warn smaller companies about changes to their algorithms that drive traffic and revenues.

The proposed measures would also make sure news publishers are able to monetise their online news content and be paid fairly for it. The DMU would have the power to step in to solve pricing disputes between news outlets and platforms. App developers would be able to sell their apps on fairer and more transparent terms.

“We want to level the playing field and we are arming this new tech regulator with a range of powers to generate lower prices, better choice and more control for consumers while backing content creators, innovators and publishers, including in our vital news industry,” said digital minister Chris Philp.

The DCMS said the DMU will be able to levy fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover.

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Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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