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12 May 2022

Baroness Stowell Calls For DMU Legislation ‘Without Delay’

Legislation underpinning the Digital Markets Unit must be brought forward “without delay” to tackle abuses in the digital marketplace which have already resulted in “significant consequences” for UK businesses and consumers, the chair of the Lords Communications and Digital Committee has said.

Speaking in a Lords debate on the Queen’s Speech yesterday, Baroness Stowell that it would not be possible to “unleash the full potential of UK start-ups” if the “entrenched market power of those tech giants creates barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and stifles innovation.”

She added: “The committee, therefore, enthusiastically welcomes the Government’s proposals for the Digital Markets Unit, which they published last Friday and which they themselves described as urgent. In our view, it is essential that this legislation is brought forward without delay.

“Delays in tackling abuses have already resulted in significant consequences for UK businesses and consumers."

“The Government’s commitment in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech to bring forward only draft legislation is hard to fathom. Since 2019, multiple reviews and consultations by the Government, independent panels and the CMA have recommended these measures. It is hard to argue anything other than that the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill is urgent.”

Earlier this week, the News Media Association welcomed the inclusion of the Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

NMA chief executive Owen Meredith said: “We are pleased the government has recognised the imbalance of bargaining power between news publishers and digital platforms and is taking this important step forward to enhance competition in the digital ecosystem.

“The Digital Markets Unit is established and operating in shadow form and we look forward to this legislation being introduced as soon as possible to give it the tools it needs to get on with the job.”

The government has outlined plans for how the DMU will create a new pro-competition regime for the digital marketplace including introducing a legally binding code of conduct to underpin meaningful payment for news publishers' content by the tech platforms.

Publishing the CMA and Ofcom’s advice on a code of conduct for platforms and publishers, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli called for the legislation to be brought forward “as quickly as possible.”