Antitrust regulators in the U.K., Australia and Germany have issued a warning that the COVID-19 pandemic was not a reason to acquire companies that would stifle competition, Financial Times (FT) reported on Tuesday (April 20).
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has asked that local mandates be changed so mergers that potentially hurt consumers are blocked. Competition regulators in Australia are among other countries’ competition officials that are launching probes into tech monopolies.
The head of the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority, Andrea Coscelli, said he expected “tremendous pressure” from companies that expressed a need for rebuilding post-pandemic. The reasons offered were meant to be a justification for mergers and acquisitions.
“We know that once market power is gained from a merger, it is very difficult to restore competition with our other competition enforcement tools, making it crucial for us to use merger control more effectively,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Chair Rod Sims said per the Guardian on Tuesday (April 20).
“Our view is that we have to change the system. The focus of competition agencies, courts and tribunals must be on the importance of protecting competition and preventing anticompetitive mergers,” he added, per the Guardian. “[O]therwise there is a risk that merger control instead skews towards merger clearance and so damages our economy.”
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee approved a report that pointed to companies — Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google — of behaving like monopolies. The April 15 report took place after a hearing that resulted in a 24-17 vote along party lines.
The U.K. also moved this month to create a Big Tech regulator for firms like Google and Facebook to protect the nation’s competitive media landscape and develop a code of conduct to enhance the balance of power between official news outlets.