Call for evidence on competition in the digital sector

A panel of experts is to investigate the subject of competition in the digital market, a field which is dominated by a small number of large companies, and make recommendations on future government policy

The panel, led by former Obama advisor Professor Jason Furman and reporting to the Treasury, has requested evidence from experts, businesses and the general public on the current state of the market, in which a small number of companies dominate the digital markets. It will look at the pros and cons that arise from this situation and investigate the way that this affects both not only consumers but the UK’s economic growth, the labour market that supports the sector and the wages that are available to workers.

Also under consideration is the way that consumer’s personal data is held by companies such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FAANG) and whether this is preventing new companies with innovative services from competing.

The panel will also look at how competition rules can be further strengthened to improve consumer choice and the and service quality, and how innovation in the digital sector can be boosted to produce new products and services.

Over the course of the review, the panel is to meet with a wide range of academics and businesses, as well as representative groups.

In addition to his role as top economic advisor in the Obama administration, Professor Furman served as chair of the Council of Economic Affairs from August 2013 to January 2017. Also on the panel are Professor Diane Coyle CBE, the Bennett professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge, Professor Amelia Fletcher OBE, Professor Derek McAuley and Professor Philip Marsden.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said: ‘We will ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the technological revolution as we build an economy fit for the future and equip people with the skills they need to succeed in it.

‘But there are concerns that the big players could be accumulating too much power in our new digital world. Therefore we must ensure we have the right regulations so that our digital markets are competitive and consumers are protected.

‘I would urge people to have their say, and look forward to receiving the panel’s recommendations.’

Chair of the independent review, Professor Jason Furman, said: ‘We want to hear from people of all ages, businesses of all sizes, and experts from all fields, to help inform our review so we can ensure all parts of society benefit from the technologies of the future.

Digital markets have produced significant consumer benefits and we are focusing on how to ensure that remains the case, while fostering competition and boosting the economy.’

The panel is accepting evidence until 7 December 2018 and is due to publish its final report in early 2019.

The open consultation, Digital Competition Expert Panel: Call For Evidence is here 

Report by James Bunney

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