Watch­dog ac­cused of ‘puz­zling’ move to avoid tack­ling tech gi­ants

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Han­nah Boland

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.

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