Digital markets taskforce created: report due by September

March 12, 2020

The UK government has announced that it is setting up a Digital Markets Taskforce. The aim of the taskforce will be to provide the government with expert advice on the functions, processes and powers which may be needed to deliver on the government’s objectives in digital markets in a proportionate and efficient way. The government will make final decisions on what proposals to take forward. This includes where any additional functions and associated powers to manage market power and to promote competition in digital platform markets should ultimately sit.

The report will contain the following:

1. Advice on a potential methodology to designate digital platforms with ‘Strategic Market Status’ (SMS).

2. Consideration of whether intervention to promote competition is justified in relation to platforms or platforms’ activities that do not fall in scope of a potential definition for SMS, but in some other ways exhibit characteristics that may have adverse effects on competition.

3. Advice on the form that a code of conduct to promote competition could take, including:

  • whether it is principles-based, outcome-based or rules-based
  • whether the code could apply to platforms’ relationships with businesses or also consumers
  • whether separate codes or detailed supporting guidance are needed for individual platforms or markets

4. In considering the form of a pro-competition code(s) of conduct, the taskforce will consider interactions with other relevant regulations, such as the Platform to Business Regulations. The government expect that a pro-competition code is likely to address many of the issues in scope of Dame Frances Cairncross’s proposed codes of conduct, and the government will consider the taskforce’s final advice with this in mind.

5. Advice on the content that could be covered by such a pro-competition code(s) of conduct. This will draw insights from, but go beyond, the issues considered by the CMA’s market study on online advertising, to cover the wider range of potential issues and markets that the Digital Competition Expert Panel (DCEP) report has identified.

6. Detailed advice on the associated powers and processes that would be needed to operate and enforce any potential code(s).

7. Advice on whether there is a case for remedies relating to data access and interoperability outside of search and social media markets, and whether such remedies should be captured through a code(s) of conduct or through more specific additional powers.

8. Advice on whether additional supporting functions and associated powers beyond those proposed by the DCEP may be needed to effectively promote competition in these markets.

9. Advice on where a pro-competitive regime might interact with existing regulatory regimes, such as relationships between promoting competition and wider regulatory objectives, including but not limited to economic growth and innovation, privacy, data protection, and intellectual property rights.

10. Advice on where international cooperation between a pro-competitive regime and other jurisdictions and multilateral forums would be most valuable or necessary, and how this cooperation can be achieved in practice.

The taskforce will agree the programme of work to deliver the project with government officials. The government will consider the appropriate institutional design for a coherent regulatory and competition system and will be making final decisions on these matters. This will be informed by the taskforce’s advice.