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Facebook, Google to Face Tougher Competition Rules in UK From New Antitrust Body

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The United Kingdom will impose a new competition regime next year to prevent Google and Facebook using their dominance to push out smaller firms and disadvantage consumers.

The code will be enforced by a dedicated unit within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which this year said it needed new laws to keep the tech giants in check.

The CMA wants to crack down on internet giants swallowing up smaller firms and is set to issue detailed plans in December.

The advertising revenues that generate profits for Google and Facebook are increasingly coming under antitrust scrutiny, often prompted by complaints from media companies as advertising spending shifts to the web.

Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the 14 billion pounds ($18.7 billion) spent in 2019, the CMA said.

The two US companies have said they are committed to working with the British government and regulator on digital advertising, including giving users greater control over their data and the ads they are served.

“It’s time to address that and unleash a new age of tech growth,” the UK’s digital secretary, Oliver Dowden, said on Friday.

The CMA will emerge from the shadow of the European Commission, the region’s main antitrust watchdog, when the UK leaves the EU’s internal market at the end of the year.

“Only through a new pro-competition regulatory regime can we tackle the market power of tech giants like Facebook and Google and ensure that businesses and consumers are protected,” Andrea Coscelli, chief of the CMA, said.

The move comes in response to government concerns that the corporations are restricting growth of the sector and hampering innovation.

The new body, which will lie within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and co-ordinate with regulators including Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, is due to begin work in April.

It could be given powers to suspend, block, and reverse decisions made by technology firms and to impose fines for failing to follow the rules.

Companies will have to be more transparent about how they use consumer data and restrictions that make it hard to use rival platforms will be banned, the government said.

The rules also aim to support the news industry by rebalancing the relationship between publishers and platforms.

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