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Oscar Williams

News editor

Obama’s former economic advisor is leading a new review of competition in the tech sector

Barack Obama’s former economic advisor, Professor Jason Furman, has been appointed to chair a new government panel investigating the role of competition in the digital economy.

The panel has been tasked with supporting a new government review of competition law, considering extra measures to ensure that new firms can adequately compete, and investigating the impact on competition of the concentration of data in a few large companies.

The move comes amid a series of anti-trust rulings by the European Commission and fears about the positions that companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon have established in their own sectors.

“While digital markets have produced significant consumer benefits, including in the UK, we need to fully understand how competition policy needs to adapt going forward,” said Furman. “Our focus needs to be on ensuring that consumers continue to benefit from these new technologies while maximizing the innovative potential from the economy.”

Google was fined a record $4.34bn last month for using its Android operating system to promote its search engine and apps. It followed another fine last year relating to the tech giant’s decision to promote its shopping service at the expense of its rivals. The launch of the panel also comes as Facebook faces calls to be broken up following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“Our tech sector is now worth over £116 billion and a new digital job is being created in this country every 50 minutes,” said the chancellor Philip Hammond. “This is something to be proud of, but at the same time it is only right that we ask the big questions about how we ensure these new digital markets work for everyone.”

“I am therefore pleased to appoint Professor Furman to lead this important work,” Hammond added. “His experience will be invaluable as we ensure that our market regulating institutions are fit for purpose in the digital age.”