UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

In this Jan.31, 2019 file photo, a trunk full of fake bank notes is displayed as activists from anti-globalization organisation Attac stage a protest at Google's Paris headquarters to criticize the company's tax evasion policies, in Paris. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2019
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UK needs to meet Facebook, Google competition with new rules — report

  • France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills
LONDON: Britain needs to overhaul its competition rules to tackle the dominance of tech giants like Facebook, Google and Amazon, and increase consumer choice, a government review said on Wednesday.
A new competition unit with expertise in the sector should be set up, the independent review said, and innovation should be encouraged by giving people control over their own data so they could switch between rival services and platforms easily.
Smaller companies should also have access to the data that social media platforms hold on their users, it recommended.
Big tech has been criticized by politicians in the United States and in Europe in recent years over issues ranging from Facebook losing track of users’ data to how Google ranks the results of searches.
France, Italy, Britain and Spain have also proposed new digital taxes to narrow loopholes that allow large multinational firms to cut tax bills.
Harvard professor Jason Furman, who chaired the British government review, said the digital sector had created substantial benefits but they had come at the cost of the increasing dominance of a few companies.
“My panel is outlining a balanced proposal to give people more control over their data, give small businesses more of a chance to enter and thrive, and create more predictability for the large digital companies,” he said on Wednesday.
“These recommendations will deliver an economic boost driven by UK tech start-ups and innovation that will give consumers greater choice and protection.”
UK finance minister Philip Hammond, who will deliver a half-yearly update on the budget later on Wednesday, said he would set out government measures to ensure digital markets are competitive later this year.
TechUK, which represents more than 900 tech companies that collectively employ 700,000 people, said the report contained some positive suggestions, but it needed further detail on what any proposed code of conduct for big tech might look like.
It also said there had to be a full assessment of the risks and benefits of opening up data sets.
“Bad regulation can be as big a barrier to competition and innovation as monopoliztic activities,” TechUK CEO Julian David said.
“The UK must remain a welcoming place for digital business from around the world, and ensure that the UK competition and wider regulatory framework is not in conflict with the other leading digital economies with which we must compete.”


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.