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MPs call for clampdown on ‘predatory practices’ by big tech firms

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A draft Digital Markets Bill should be published “without delay” to deter big tech firms engaging in “predatory practices”, MPs have said.

A report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (BEISC) has concluded that fines imposed on large tech firms for breaching anti-trust laws in the UK have been viewed as ‘a small business cost’ and has called for more stringent action.

Proposals for a Digital Markets Competition and Consumer Bill were trailed by the government in the Queen’s Speech.

The new measures that would empower the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) and Digital Markets Unit (DMU) to rein in abusive tech giants by dropping the turnover threshold for immunity from financial penalties from £50m to £20m, and hiking potential maximum fines to 10 per cent of global annual income.

The Committee said that there is “strong evidence of abuses of market dominance” within digital markets and warned that “consumers and others are at risk” until a Bill is published and passed.

Last week, the CMA re-issued an order against Facebook owner Meta to sell the recently acquired animated image firm Giphy, while the watchdog is also currently investigating Apple and Google on issues around their dominance in digital markets.

BEISC chair Darren Jones said: “The Competition, Consumer and Digital Markets Bill has wide support and should be prioritised, especially given the difficulty the government currently has at passing other laws which are more controversial.

“There are many areas in the economy where stronger competition is required in the interests of consumers, small business and economic growth and this bill is an essential stepping stone to driving this issue forward.”

The report also called on the government to “end [the] uncertainty” caused by its failure to publish final guidance on the post-Brexit subsidy control regime, which the committee found had left subsidy awarding bodies ‘in limbo’. The MPs called for the guidance to be published as soon as possible.

Passed in April, and due to come into full force in early January, the Subsidy Control Act omits key details of the regime for public authorities to follow when awarding money. The money will be awarded from the Shared Prosperity Fund which is a replacement for money formerly awarded through EU structural funding.

Jones added: “The government promised to replace previous EU funding into projects across the country as part of its Brexit and levelling up offers to the public. This has not yet been delivered, and without full guidance and proper financing of the new subsidy schemes, funds that help deliver projects will be further delayed.

“The public will no doubt be disappointed to have not yet seen the so called ‘Brexit opportunities’ that were promised to level up their local community.”

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