New UK antitrust rules could fine tech giants big bucks for breaking rules


New antitrust measures are brewing in the United Kingdom.
New U.K. antitrust rules are brewing.
Photo: Colin Watts/Unsplash CC

The United Kingdom is developing new antitrust measures and could fine tech giants up to 10% of their annual revenue for breaking the rules. The Digital Markets Unit’s plan is intended to make it easier for U.K. businesses — such as startups, news publishers and advertisers — to compete with established giants like Apple and Amazon.

“Tech has transformed our lives for the better, whether it’s helping us to stay in touch with our loved ones, share content, or access the latest news,” said Kwasi Kwarteng, the U.K.’s secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, in a press release Tuesday. “Nobody wants to see an unassailable monopoly, and our common sense reforms will help protect consumers, support ground-breaking new ideas and level the playing field for businesses.”

The press release describes the proposal, which is currently in a consultation process:

“The DMU could … be given powers to suspend, block and reverse code-breaching behavior by tech giants – for instance unfair changes in their algorithms or T&Cs – and order them to take specific actions to comply with the code.

As well as tackling poor behavior by these firms, the consultation will also consider whether the DMU will be able to impose a set of measures to tackle the root causes of competition issues in digital markets.

This could see the DMU implementing measures to support interoperability – making it easier for digital platforms and services to be compatible with each other and for customers to switch between them. For example it could require platforms to allow the public to share contacts from one platform to another.”

How will new U.K. antitrust rules affect Apple?

At this early stage, it remains unclear how this could affect Apple. But investigations into interoperability and prioritizing certain services over others are common refrains around the world when it comes to reigning in Apple’s power.

International antitrust bodies are currently investigating the App Store, Apple Pay and other Apple services. In the United States, some politicians want Apple to stop shipping the iPhone with default apps so as to supposedly level the playing field for rivals.

Apple’s very unlikely to go down without a fight if it deems the U.K. rules unfair, though. The company recently threatened to withdraw from the U.K. market altogether over a massive patent-licensing fee.

What do you think of the various international efforts to curb the power of Big Tech? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.



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