The global economy is changing, and the United Kingdom stands to greatly benefit from the growing importance of the digital sector. Our country has always excelled at innovation, and there is great potential with digital technologies for the UK to be a world leader. But the Digital Markets, Consumer and Competition Bill (DMCC) risks putting up barriers to innovation and investment that could greatly restrict the growth of the UK’s
This important paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs and the International Center for Law & Economics analyses the Bill and discusses many of the issues I and other Parliamentarians have been highlighting to colleagues in Government. Whilst well intentioned, this Bill would grant substantial powers to the new Digital Markets Unit, risking an overreach in regulation without the necessary checks and balances.
One area of particular concern is the proposed Judicial Review mechanism for appeals, rather than one based on merit. By not allowing appellants to question the rights and wrongs of a decision affecting them, but only its legality, the DMU would be given free rein to make unchallengeable decisions that affect large swathes of the economy. Colleagues and I have heard from companies in the digital sector who have all expressed anxiety about the diminution of accountability that these plans entail.
Regulation of this growing sector is clearly necessary, but it mustn’t be done in a way that discourages investment. Sadly, the Bill in its current form would have that impact. Regulation must never be overdone, and must always involve accountability. This paper not only highlights the challenges that the Bill in its current form poses, but also sets out clear ways in which it could be improved. There is still much time for the Government to put forward a more sensible regulatory regime, thus avoiding an overstretching of powers that could damage a burgeoning part of our economy.
Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland KBE KC MP
MP for South Swindon
Secretary of State for Justice (2019-2021)
Solicitor General for England and Wales (2014-2019)