British regulator sets out new regime for tech giants

British regulator sets out new regime for tech giants
CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said consumers and businesses who relied on tech giants like Google and Facebook should be treated fairly, and competitors should face a level playing field. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 09 December 2020

British regulator sets out new regime for tech giants

British regulator sets out new regime for tech giants
  • New powers sought to harness the full potential of digital markets and drive competition and innovation

LONDON: Britain’s competition watchdog outlined a new regime for regulating tech giants such as Google and Facebook, saying it needed new powers to harness the full potential of digital markets and drive competition and innovation.

It proposed a new, legally binding code of conduct, pro-competitive interventions in the market and enhanced merger rules, overseen by a Digital Markets Unit that
was announced by the government last month.

The new regime, which will require government legislation, will be part of a wider regulatory framework for digital markets, including new rules for harmful online content and data protection, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said.

CMA Chief Executive Andrea Coscelli said consumers and businesses who relied on tech giants like Google and Facebook should be treated fairly, and competitors should face a level playing field.

“For that to happen, the UK needs new powers and a new approach,” he said on Tuesday. “In short, we need a modern regulatory regime that can enable innovation to thrive, while taking swift action to prevent problems.” 

Separately, Australia on Tuesday finalized plans to make Facebook Inc. and Google pay its media outlets for news content, a world-first move aimed at protecting independent journalism that has been strongly opposed by the Internet giants.

Under laws to go to parliament this week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Big Tech firms must negotiate payments for content that appears on their platforms with local publishers and broadcasters. If they can’t strike a deal, a government-appointed arbitrator will decide for them.

“This is a huge reform, this is a world first, and the world is watching what happens here in Australia,” Frydenberg told reporters in the capital Canberra.

“Our legislation will help ensure that the rules of the digital world mirror the rules of the physical world ... and ultimately sustain our media landscape.”

The law amounts to the strongest check of the tech giants’ market power globally, and follows three years of inquiry and consultation, ultimately spilling into a public row in August when the US companies warned it may stop them offering their services in Australia.

Facebook Australia managing director Will Easton said the company would review the legislation and “engage through the upcoming parliamentary process with the goal of landing on a workable framework to support Australia’s news ecosystem.”

A representative for Google declined to comment, saying the company had yet to see the final version of the proposed law.

Until recently, most countries have stood by as advertisers redirect spending to the world’s biggest social media website and search engine, starving newsrooms of their main revenue source and bringing widespread shutdowns and job losses.

But regulators are starting to test their power to rein in the two mega-corporations, which take more than four-fifths of Australian online advertising spending between them, according to Frydenberg.

Google said in October it plans to pay $1 billion to publishers globally for their news over the next three years.

The new product called Google News Showcase will launch first in Germany, where it has signed up German newspapers including Der Spiegel, Stern, Die Zeit, and in Brazil with Folha de S.Paulo, Band and Infobae.

Google last month said it had also signed copyright agreements with six French newspapers and magazines, including national dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro.

“It’s both very ambitious and very necessary,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Center for Advancing Journalism, referring to the Australian law.

“Taking their news content without paying for it, in exchange for a very questionable reward of ‘reach,’ seems to be a very unfair and uneven and ultimately democratically damaging arrangement.”

News Corp. Australia executive chairman Michael Miller said the law was “a significant step forward in the decade-long campaign to achieve fairness in the relationship between Australian news media companies and the global tech giants.”


Pakistan's Maqsad raises $2.1m pre-seed funds

Pakistan's Maqsad raises $2.1m pre-seed funds
Updated 16 sec ago

Pakistan's Maqsad raises $2.1m pre-seed funds

Pakistan's Maqsad raises $2.1m pre-seed funds

Pakistani e-learning platform Maqsad has raised $2.1million in its latest funding round, just months after being created.

The edtech company offers after-school academic support to youngsters in English and Urdu, and the company aims to reach 100 million students in Pakistan.

The company will use the cash to fund a production studio, academics and animators in order to develop in-house content.

Maqsad co-founder Rooshan Aziz said: “Struggles of students during the early days of the pandemic motivated us to run a pilot program. With promising initial traction and user feedback, the potential to digitize the education sector became very clear.”


American Express joins Amazon network to benefit KSA cardholders

American Express joins Amazon network to benefit KSA cardholders
Updated 20 September 2021

American Express joins Amazon network to benefit KSA cardholders

American Express joins Amazon network to benefit KSA cardholders
  • Amex cardholders in the Kingdom will now be able to use their cards to pay online merchants who are part of the Amazon Payment Services network

DUBAI: Credit card giant American Express has signed a deal with Amazon Payment Services, expanding cardholders’ use for their online payments in Saudi Arabia.

Under the deal, Amex cardholders in the Kingdom will now be able to use their cards to pay online merchants who are part of the Amazon Payment Services network.

“By partnering with Amazon Payment Services, American Express will be able to enhance and expand the online network of merchants in Saudi Arabia where American Express cards can be used,” Peter George, managing director of the payment service, said.

This comes as e-commerce and digital payments continue to grow in the Kingdom and the wider Middle East.


Kuwait to implement largest government restructuring in its history as of 2022

Kuwait to implement largest government restructuring in its history as of 2022
Updated 20 September 2021

Kuwait to implement largest government restructuring in its history as of 2022

Kuwait to implement largest government restructuring in its history as of 2022

Kuwait plans to merge ministries, abolish others and create new strategies as part of the largest restructuring roadmap in its history over the next four years, Al Qabs reported.

Beginning in 2022, the ministries of electricity, water and oil will come together under one umbrella called the 'Ministry of Energy', while a 'Ministry of Economy and Trade' will also be created.

This department will be responsible for managing economic development, take responsibility for the national strategy for privatization, and manage the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Authority.

The plan also includes transferring the affiliation of Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) to the Ministry of Economy and Trade at the beginning of 2023, and developing strategies for a free economic zone and export promotion.

Kuwait's roadmap consists of reviewing investment laws, foreign ownership, bankruptcy and public-private partnership, evaluation, reform, simplification and digitization of the commercial registration process, and facilitation of procedures for obtaining credit.

The roadmap also includes expanding the competencies of the Competition Protection Office, including more experts in it, and expanding the scope of the National Fund for the Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to include innovation.

Kuwait plans to shift the executive management of the country from operator to regulator, through a government center to be established in early 2022.

The plan also includes dissolving the Ministry of Services and creating a new Ministry of Communications and Information Technology in order to develop the ICT strategy, as well as building a smart national strategy 'Towards a Smart Kuwait' in line with Vision 2023.

The Ministry of Information will be dismantled as of the last quarter of 2024, and the Media Authority will be established to implement media regulations in early 2023, the country decided.

Kuwait plans to establish six new local municipalities covering all its governorates, abolish of the Ministry of State for Housing Affairs and transfer its powers and responsibilities to the Ministry of Social Affairs.

It will also establish a new independent authority under the name 'The Public Authority for Social and Housing Support; at the beginning of the first half of 2022.

 


UAE small businesses lead the world in trading optimism: Visa

UAE small businesses lead the world in trading optimism: Visa
Updated 20 September 2021

UAE small businesses lead the world in trading optimism: Visa

UAE small businesses lead the world in trading optimism: Visa

Small businesses in the UAE are more confident about future trading than those in the US, Hong Kong, and Germany, according to a survey by Visa.

The financial services company’s 'Back to Business Study' states 64 percent of small and medium firms in the country are very optimistic about their long-term success — the highest proportion of all markets surveyed.

This figure rises to 88 percent when it includes firms who are generally optimistic about trading.

The survey also claimed that in the UAE the shift to contactless payments is becoming more permanent.

Nearly all consumers in the UAE — 92 percent  — say COVID-19 has permanently changed their payment habits, compared to 68 percent globally. 

About 73 percent  of UAE consumers would not shop at a store that does not accept contactless payments, compared to 44 percent across the globe. 

A third of UAE consumers have not used cash in the past week, the second highest among all markets.

Digital commerce has also particularly supported small business amid the pandemic, Shahebaz Khan, Visa’s general manager for the UAE, said.

He added: “Seemingly small pivots toward digital commerce can continue to make the difference between a small business surviving and thriving." 


HP, Procter & Gamble join companies pledge to cut emissions

HP, Procter & Gamble join companies pledge to cut emissions
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 20 September 2021

HP, Procter & Gamble join companies pledge to cut emissions

HP, Procter & Gamble join companies pledge to cut emissions
  • The companies aim to cut almost 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2040
  • Scientists say the world needs to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 if it wants to meet the Paris climate accord's goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century

Computer-maker HP, consumer goods business Procter & Gamble and coffee capsule company Nespresso have joined a corporate pledge to sharply cut their greenhouse gas emissions over nearly two decades.


The Climate Pledge, a grouping of companies and organizations spearheaded by Amazon, said on Monday it has signed up 86 new members for its voluntary measures. The group has 201 members with global annual revenues of more than $1.8 trillion, it said.


Other new members include telecoms company BT, truck-maker Scania and the Selfridges department store chain.


Together, the companies aim to cut almost 2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2040 — more than 5 percent of the current global total.


While the group's members are encouraged to eliminate as many emissions as possible, those that can't be avoided need to be completely offset in the next two decades. That means paying for measures to ensure as many emissions are absorbed by then as the companies continue to emit.


Scientists say the world needs to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050 if it wants to meet the Paris climate accord's goal of keeping temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times.