A new online competition regulator in the UK will target companies like Facebook and Google in the latest push to control the power of the tech giants in Europe. The Digital Markets Unit, or DMU, was launched by the British government on Wednesday, though its power to impose fines is not expected to come until next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Parliament must pass legislation governing the regulator’s oversight capabilities before it has any real power to control tech giants.
The DMU’s mandate includes promoting online competition and overseeing plans to give consumers more control over their data. The watchdog “will help ensure that tech giants like Facebook and Google cannot exploit their dominance of the market to crowd out competition and stifle online innovation,” the government said. Essential reading: Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon could face multi-million dollar fines under new EU tech regulations The first order of business for the DMU is to examine how codes of conduct could work in practice to govern relationships between online platforms and groups like small businesses, who depend on them to advertise. The government’s digital secretary, Oliver Dowden, also asked the unit to work with communications regulator Ofcom to examine how a code could govern the relationship between platforms and content providers such as news publishers. This investigation will include ensuring that editors are “as fair and reasonable as possible.” The DMU will be located within the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, which is the UK’s antitrust regulator. The CMA is already involved in tackling the tech giants, with enforcement actions against Apple AAPL, + 0.25% and Google, owned by Alphabet GOOGL, -0.44%, as well as investigations into mergers involving Facebook FB, -0.86% and Ebay EBAY, – 1.84%. Read: Google’s new ad tech under investigation over competition concerns from UK regulator Plus: Regulator opposes sale of eBay division for $ 9.2bn in latest move to protect online competition ” Today is another step towards creating a level playing field in digital markets. ” said Andrea Coscelli, executive director of the CMA. “The DMU will be a leading global center of expertise in this area and, when empowered it needs, I am confident it will play a key role in helping innovation thrive and ensuring better results for customers.” The launch of the DMU comes amid a broader global push to regulate Big Tech. In the European Union, tech giants are facing landmark new regulation that includes the possibility of multi-million dollar fines and the dissolution of companies if they fail to comply. with the new rules. In the US, Google and Facebook are the subject of antitrust lawsuits.