UK launches Big Tech regulator, toothless until 2022

The promised Digital Markets Unit has been launched by the UK government, with a remit to prevent technology firms exploiting market dominance, and it has no real power until 2022.

As announced in late 2020, the UK government has now formed a Digital Markets Unit, which it describes as a “tough new regulator” to prevent Big Tech misusing market dominance. However, reportedly the DMU will require new legislation which is not expected to be introduced for at least a year.

“Today is a major milestone in the path to creating the world’s most competitive online markets, with consumers, entrepreneurs and content publishers at their heart,” said the UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden in a statement. “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,” he continued, “which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values.”

According to the Financial Times, sources close to the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority say the DMU will be toothless for a year or more. The new legislation required is expected to take that long because of the length of government consultation, and the volume of new laws being considered by parliament.

The UK describes the launch of the new unit as being in “shadow” mode, as it awaits the full powers that legislation is expected to give it. In the meantime, its 60 staff are going to examine how codes of conduction could promote competition.

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