The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport yesterday published its Plan for Digital Regulation.
The plan openly capitalises on the government's post-Brexit freedom, and is clear in its ambition to "cement [the UK's] position as the tech capital of Europe". It is firmly "pro-tech" and aspires to create a proportionate, "pro-innovation" approach to regulating digital technologies, while at the same time providing businesses with certainty and consumers with the confidence to engage safely with digital technologies.
Recognising the features of digital markets - including the accumulation of data, network effects, and the use of advanced data analytics and algorithms - the plan calls for a distinct approach, guided by overarching objectives and principles.
The three key objectives which underpin the government's vision are:
- Promoting competition and innovation;
- Keeping the UK safe and secure online; and
- Promoting a flourishing, democratic society.
Regulation designed to achieve these objectives will, in turn, be guided by three principles:
- Actively promoting innovation - including by seeking to remove or avoid unnecessary burdens and regulations where possible (the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, envisages a "deregulatory approach overall");
- Achieving forward-looking and coherent outcomes - including ensuring that regulators take a collaborative approach by engaging with businesses and other regulators; and
- Exploiting opportunities and addressing challenges in the international arena.
In respect of competition law specifically, the plan recognises that competition is key to unlocking the full potential of the digital economy. To this end, the government is establishing "a world-leading pro-competition regime" for digital markets, that will drive competition and enable start-ups to compete with incumbents, while minimising burdens on business. The government will be consulting on the new regime this summer, and intends to put it on a statutory footing as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Countries around the world are grappling with this challenge, and the UK is perfectly placed to lead the way on this vital issue.