Watchdog accused of ‘puzzling’ move to avoid tackling tech giants
COMPETITION chiefs have been accused of shirking a chance to take on the US tech giants after they shied away from an investigation of the online advertising industry.
In a long-awaited report to ministers, the Competition and Markets Authority said that it will not take action against the Silicon Valley titans because existing laws are unsuitable.
The watchdog called for a new procompetition regulatory regime to be established instead – which the Government would have to introduce.
Competition lawyers were surprised by the decision. Christian Ahlborn, at Linklaters, said: “The regulator’s reasoning is puzzling given that the legislative process for introducing its proposed package is likely to take far longer than a market investigation. The CMA is very much passing the baton.”
The CMA – which last month lost its crusading chairman Lord Tyrie – said it was concerned an inquiry would introduce “burdens on to the businesses” being examined. The watchdog said its proposal should include powers to force companies to make structural changes. A “digital markets unit” should be able to enforce a code of conduct and impose significant fines if companies fail to alter their behaviour.
Ronan Harris, head of Google in the UK & Ireland, said they will continue to work constructively with regulators and government. Facebook said it already faces significant competition.