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UK regulator seeks power over tech firms

By JONATHAN POWELL | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-04 09:34 菲律宾申博太阳城官网
The Twitter and Facebook logo along with binary cyber codes are seen in this illustration taken Nov 26, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Now that nation has left the EU, it wants the ability to mount probes

Britain's competition watchdog will push for tougher powers to regulate companies such as Google and Facebook following the country's official exit from the European Union.

The Competition and Markets Authority-the United Kingdom's regulator-has said it will pursue antitrust investigations against the United States technology giants independently of Brussels, in the wake of Brexit.

The watchdog seeks a more active role in scrutinizing large mergers and to clamp down on anti-competitive behavior by US technology giants, according to a Financial Times report.

"The upside (of Brexit) is that you take back control-genuinely-of the decisions," Andrea Coscelli, head of the Competition and Markets Authority, known as CMA, told the FT.

Coscelli said that countries such as Canada, Australia and Brazil were the UK's benchmark on the issue of competition regulation, and said the UK was "in a very strong position to lead" global policy.

The regulator has indicated that it wants to take on powers to impose fines on companies engaging in behavior that is harmful to consumers. It is now spending more time and resources looking at deals where a dominant online player buys a smaller rival, Coscelli said.

Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, and then Whatsapp for $19 billion two years later. Google bought online ad agency Doubleclick in 2007.

Business newspaper City A.M.notes that the CMA has launched an investigation into Google's proposed $2.6 billion acquisition of data analytics company Looker, and that it recently launched a probe into Amazon's investment in Deliveroo amid concerns it could damage competition in the online food delivery market.

"When we look at the current deals we have a higher degree of skepticism," Coscelli told the FT.

"The argument that companies were making seven or eight years ago was that it was very difficult to predict how it was going to play out," he said. "We now realize that there are strong barriers to entry and expansion."

Last month, the UK was told by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to "hold fire" on a new tax on big technology companies planned for April.

The international organization is tasked with brokering a global compromise on the issue of technology giants not paying enough tax. Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the organization, told the BBC that if a solution was not reached, the result would be "cacophony and a mess", with 40 countries going their own ways and "tensions rising all over the place".

Gurria said the British government should "absolutely hold fire "on its plans to levy a 2 percent tax on the UK revenues of search engines, social media companies, and online marketplaces.

He said the UK should "contribute to a multilateral solution" instead of introducing the tax as planned.

In response, a spokesperson for the UK treasury office said: "We've committed to introduce our Digital Services Tax from April 2020.It will be repealed once a global solution is in place."

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