The United Kingdom is launching a wide ranging probe into American tech giants to assess whether they are treating their local competitors and suppliers fairly. The inquiry marks the onset of UK regulation and possibly market segmentation for U.S. tech companies that have dominated the country’s online industry for years.
Just months after Brussels launched a scathing inquiry into Google, the UK has declared it would be assessing the market behavior of Silicon Valley internet platforms. The use of the word ‘platforms’ has been described by analysts as wide enough to include eBay, Paypal, Amazon, Skype, Facebook and Uber. Areas dominated by search giant Google will also feature in the probe. These include: search, online videos, news aggregation and maps.
The probe was launched by the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee and will commence proceedings for oral evidence in October. The proceedings will last till December.
The probes will take relevant evidence on the relations between the tech companies and their suppliers looking for “asymmetries in bargaining power and the fairness of terms and conditions.” They will also look into whether both consumers and the business partners were allowed to extract their data safely from the platforms.
The objective of the whole exercise by the EU is to determine whether new regulations would be required to ensure the Digital Single Market (DSM) envisioned was functioning. Previously, both Google and Hollywood have been on the receiving end of investigations by the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
An EU anti-trust campaign against Google earlier in the year used old-fashioned anti trust laws to loosen the search giant’s hold on online shopping though exact penalties have yet to be determined. The move marked the EU’s first attempt at regulatory assault of giant tech companies. It did not end there.
The DSM blueprint alluded to putting the sharing industry under a microscope. This would see popular sharing services such as Uber and Airbnb get regulatory checks imposed after assessment.
According to the initial DSM draft, “Some platforms can control access to online markets and can exercise significant influence over how various players in the market are remunerated.”