UK ministers retreat from giving new tech regulator statutory backing


Whitehall officials confirmed on Thursday that UK ministers will not legislate in the next parliamentary session to empower a new technology regulator for big Internet companies such as Facebook and Google.

The government was weighing plans to include a bill in the upcoming Queen’s Speech that would place the digital market entity on a statutory level within the UK’s competition regulator, but has backed out of legislation.

On Thursday, the government made only a vague promise that a full bill would eventually be introduced: “The government will introduce legislation to keep digital market units at the statutory level in due course,” it said.

According to people familiar with the matter, the government will announce a draft bill, including powers for the new watchdog, on May 10, but will hold off on the inclusion of a final bill that could be made into law in the next one year’s legislative session. starts with. Autumn.

Instead, the unit will not receive a statutory backing until the next parliamentary session in 2023-24 at the earliest.

The update comes after the Financial Times reported on Monday that the government had postponed plans for a new digital market unit from the Queen’s Speech, despite already launching it informally last year.

Without a statutory basis, the technology regulator would be unable to set bespoke rules for technology companies or impose fines with up to 10 percent of turnover for breaching them — part of a radical plan to curb the dominance of a small number of powerful technology. Both element groups.

The new regulator was announced by the government two years ago and it was installed in a “shadow form” within the CMA last year. It currently has about 60 employees but no power beyond Watchdog’s existing toolkit.

On Thursday, the Department for Culture Media and Sport set out in more detail the scope of the digital regulator’s new powers, including the ability to allow technology companies to pay for news and better transparency on how algorithms and data are used.

Responding to its own consultations last year, the government said the entity would be given the power to resolve pricing disputes between news outlets and platforms.

The unit will make it easier for customers to switch between Apple iOS and Android phones or social media accounts, ensuring that data can be transferred more easily.

The government said the digital market entity would set rules for only a small number of companies with “substantial and strong market power in the UK”. Those companies must also report the acquisition to the CMA prior to completion under the new “light touch” merger rules.

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