This seminar focused on competition regulation in the digital economy.
It took place as the Government considered its response to the publication of the Furman Review, the Digital Competition Expert Panel set up to consider the way forward for putting the UK’s digital economy - including its range of sectors and service types - on a sustainable long-term footing with respect to competition.
Sessions considered the need, and options, for intervention by regulators and policymakers - and the impact on service providers, social media sites, streaming and content hosting platforms, their partners and customers, and other stakeholders.
Taking place following the publication of the Smart Data Review, which confirmed the Government’s intention to take forward the Furman Review’s recommendation of a new digital markets unit, delegates discussed what remit the unit should have and the approach it should take to promoting competition in the digital economy - as well as its regulatory powers.
Further sessions included discussion on M&A activity in the digital economy, looking at whether a new regulatory approach is required - following the publication of CMA’s Digital Markets Strategy and following a ministerial speech about competition rules which outlined the case for reform so as to prevent potential new forms of consumer harm.
Delegates assessed the extent to which promoting innovation and consumer benefit should be considered by the CMA as factors in whether to accept or reject a merger application - as well as examining the Review’s proposed ‘balance of harms’ consideration, which would allow the CMA to take into account the scale and probability of potential harms resulting from merger cases in making its assessment.
The agenda also looked at the digital advertising market. The discussion took place in the context of the recommendations contained in the Cairncross Review, as well as the CMA’s digital advertising market study. Delegates considered issues around whether that market is overly dominated by a small number of companies and publisher remuneration for advertising displayed next to their content.
Further sessions focused on developing international regulatory collaboration on the question of competition in digital markets. Delegates examined how regulators might work in a more standardised and joined-up fashion across national borders, in order to monitor anti-competitive practices and scrutinise cross-border mergers.