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Competition and regulation in digital markets and the evolving role of platforms

May 2021


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference will examine the way forward for regulation and competition in digital markets, and the evolving role of platforms.


Areas for discussion include:


  • the role of the Digital Markets Unit in addressing digital competition issues going forward, and what further action might be needed from policymakers and regulators
  • the international regulatory landscape
  • the evolving role of platforms and regulation in tackling online harm

The conference will be an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who are due to attend from: the DCMS; BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the CMA; the DfT; DHSC; the DIT; the European Union Delegation to the United Kingdom; the Government Legal Department; HMRC; HM Treasury; the Information Commissioner’s Office; the Intellectual Property Office; Ofcom; and the Prime Minister’s Office; as well as parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Lords and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.


The agenda


  • Competition regulation in the global digital economy - the evolving landscape
  • Developing a competition regime for digital markets in the UK
  • Addressing competition issues in digital markets - setting out clear guidelines, encouraging innovation and supporting smaller enterprises, and ensuring consumer benefit
  • Next steps for international collaboration and developing effective digital competition frameworks worldwide
  • The evolving role of platforms in tackling online harm - setting boundaries, freedom of expression, and the future for regulation
  • Key priorities for the new Digital Markets Unit and policy in the UK

Areas for discussion:


  • digital competition - the international landscape, and key developments in the sector
  • regulation - priorities for developing a competition regime for digital markets in the UK, and the role of the Digital Markets Unit:
    • a code of conduct - looking at development and enforceability of a regime for platforms funded by digital advertising that are designated as having strategic market status
    • enforcement practicalities:
      • assessing what powers will be needed for the Digital Market Unit to be effective
      • looking at the ability to impose financial penalties for non-compliance, and introduce pro-competitive interventions
    • regulatory agility and future proofing - how can it be ensured that the Digital Markets Unit is able to adapt to changing market conditions and dynamics
    • SMEs and new entrants - the role of any future regulation framework in addressing barriers and supporting smaller players
    • M&A activity in digital markets - assessing its impact, as well as the role of regulation in fostering innovation and safeguarding consumer benefit
  • international approaches to regulation - priorities, and what can be learned from developments and practice in different territories:
    • the impact of the European Commission’s Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act:
      • with the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, writing in a column for Politico following events early this year: ‘Just as 9/11 marked a paradigm shift for global security, 20 years later we are witnessing a before-and-after in the role of digital platforms in our democracy’
  • the US regulatory framework and whether steps are needed to curb the power of Big Tech:
    • including potential changes to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act - under which internet platforms can publish and moderate content from third parties without being held legally liable for what they say 
  • the evolving role of platforms in tackling online harm - and implications for future regulation and liability:
    • freedom of expression online - following a number of platforms banning President Trump following unrest in Washington DC, and removing support for Parler
    • online harm - assessing effectiveness of strategies and actions taken so far by online platforms and social media companies in tackling online harm, disinformation and misinformation
    • how regulation in the UK will need to adapt:
      • as Ofcom is appointed as regulator for online harms, alongside the setting up of the Digital Market Unit
      • with the Health Secretary commenting that the action of platforms 'raises regulation questions' going forward

The context for discussion:


  • UK competition watchdog warns Big Tech of coming antitrust probes - FT interview with CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli, saying that the Authority will launch a series of antitrust investigations into Big Tech practices over the coming year
  • regulating digital markets in the UK:
    • Oliver Dowden warns Facebook of UK crackdown on Big Tech - the Daily Telegraph reporting that the UK won’t shy away from intervening with Big Tech if it is in the public interest to do so, following the disputes between Facebook and the Australian government
    • the establishment of the Digital Markets Unit - within the Competition and Markets Authority, and designed to regulate digital markets in the UK
    • advice from the CMA’s Digital Markets Taskforce - on the design and implementation of a new regulatory regime for digital markets
    • Unlocking digital competition - the final report of the Digital Competition Expert Panel, chaired by Professor Jason Furman, which included a call for the creation of the Digital Markets Unit
    • Algorithms: How they can reduce competition and harm consumers - the CMA’s Data, Technology and Analytics (DaTA) Unit has called for views following the publication of their report, which warns that the misuse of algorithms can reduce competition online and harm consumers
  • international approaches to regulation:
    • the European Commission’s Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act - which aim to keep digital markets and services open and contestable across the EU, address competition concerns in fast-moving digital markets, better protect consumers, and encourage transparency
    • ongoing discussion in the US about whether steps are needed to curb the power of platforms
    • dispute between the Australian government and Facebook - after introduction of draft legislation seeking to redistribute advertising revenue from Google and Facebook to news outlets
  • tackling online harm and implications for regulation:
    • the Online Harms White Paper - with aims to protect children and vulnerable people online, plans for a new duty of care, and government commitments to publishing an Online Safety Bill, which is expected to be published this year
    • appointment of Ofcom as online harms regulator - with plans to publish its initial thinking on its approach, also this year
    • vaccine misinformation - Facebook, Twitter and Google agreeing to work with public health bodies to promote factual and reliable messages, and limit the spread of misinformation and disinformation

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Lords and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Competition and Markets Authority; the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport; the Department for Health and Social Care; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the European Union Delegation to the United Kingdom; the Government Legal Department; HM Revenue & Customs; HM Treasury; the Information Commissioner's Office; the Intellectual Property Office; Ofcom; and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with digital and social media platforms, consumer technology companies, digital advertising companies, data analytics companies, artificial intelligence and machine learning companies, other industry representatives from across the technology and digital sectors, lawyers and consultants with an interest in these topics, organisations and individuals representing the views of consumers and citizens, regulators, academics and reporters from the national and trade media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***


  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles