The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) will oversee government plans to give consumers more choice and control over their data, foster healthy competition and curb unfair practices which inhibit smaller organisations from operating online.
The DMU’s first task will be to examine how a new code of conduct can be implemented to “govern the relationships” between larger tech companies and users – particularly small businesses that rely on platforms to advertise services and reach customers.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has instructed the regulator to work alongside communications watchdog Ofcom to explore how the code might also create a healthier relationship between platforms and content providers such as news publishers.
Facebook and Google have both been criticised over their dealings with news publishers in recent years, with critics arguing the firms’ policies stifle competition and harm revenue streams for content providers.
In February this year, both Facebook and Google came to blows with Australian lawmakers over the country’s News Media Bargaining Code, which called for large tech companies to pay Australian news publishers for content that appeared on their platforms.
Commenting on the DMU launch, Dowden said: “The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I’ve asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers.
“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.”
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The Digital Markets Unit will also work alongside CMA enforcement teams taking action to address practices by digital firms which harm competition and lead to poor outcomes for consumers and businesses.
This, the CMA revealed, includes taking enforcement action against Google and Apple and scrutinising mergers involving Facebook and eBay.
CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said: “People shopping on the internet and sharing information online should be able to enjoy the choice, secure data and fair prices that come with a dynamic and competitive industry.
“Today is another step towards creating a level playing field in digital markets. The DMU will be a world-leading hub of expertise in this area and when given the powers it needs, I am confident it will play a key role in helping innovation thrive and securing better outcomes for customers.”