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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/digital-competition-expert-panel-terms-of-reference/digital-competition-expert-panel-terms-of-reference
The expert panel’s objectives are to consider the potential opportunities and challenges the emerging digital economy may pose for competition and pro-competition policy, and to make recommendations on any changes that may be needed.
The panel will draw on its members’ expertise in competition economics and policy and engage widely with experts and stakeholders. It will consider the impact of competition policy on the UK’s growth and productivity, on wages and labour markets and on consumer outcomes.
In particular, it will look at:
- the impacts of the emergence of a small number of big players in digital markets such as social media, e-commerce, search, and online advertising
- appropriate approaches to mergers, takeovers and anticompetitive practices in digital markets
- opportunities to enhance competition to increase business innovation and expand consumer choice
- how best to assess consumer impacts in ad-funded products and services that are “free” to consumers
It will consider what further economic policy tools and frameworks are required to best understand and assess online markets; what if any changes may be required to the powers, functions and resources of the UK’s competition authority; and what approaches should be pursued at the international level in order to address the challenges of the digital economy.
The review will not attempt to provide answers to wider social questions such as the possible implications of the digital economy for individuals’ privacy, democracy, or independence and accountability of the media. However, it will identify the intersections between competition law, alternative policy tools and other areas of policy. These questions are also further being examined in other fora.
The panel’s work will be independent of government. It will make a final report with its recommendations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in early 2019. Its recommendations will inform the work of HM Treasury, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, particularly the Competition Law Review.
2. Key questions for the expert panel
- What are the emerging benefits and harms from digital markets such as social media, e-commerce, search, and online advertising tending towards only one or a small number of big firms?
- What are the emerging benefits and harms of the same small number of digital firms becoming present across a broad range of digital markets?
- What effect can the accumulation and concentration of data within a small number of big firms be expected to have on competition?
- How can risks and detriment to consumers in products and services that are “free” to consumers (or paid for through their data) be assessed? And how could competition effects in other markets such as advertising be addressed?
- How do technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning affect competition and what are their implications for competition policy? Does algorithmic pricing raise novel concerns about competition?
- What is the appropriate approach to mergers and takeovers in digital markets – what are the key challenges and how should they be addressed?
- What tools does competition policy need to deal with issues in the digital economy in a sufficiently timely, effective and far-sighted manner? To what extent are these in place in the UK?
- What approaches are being considered and developed by governments and competition authorities in other major economies? What needs to be done internationally and what can be done at the UK level?