Tech can create big, powerful citizen-consumers to erode the power of online network monopolies

I’m honoured to be this month’s ‘Parliamentary TechChampion’, because of the role technology can play in sharpening competition to create big, powerful citizen-consumers so markets work for people rather than the other way round.

This is a key theme in my Government-commissioned report on Competition Policy, Power to the People which made the case for a strong, pro-competitive but tightly-ring fenced Digital Market Unit to erode the power of online network monopolies which have emerged in the last few decades, giving consumers more choice and better deals as well as opening up more opportunities for entrepreneurs and wealth-creators too.

World-leading changes in Open Banking

An example of what this means in practice is the UK’s world-leading changes in Open Banking, which are weakening the longstanding current-account stranglehold of incumbent high-street banks. By opening up data portability with APIs for third party payments providers (TPPs), banking customers suddenly have a growing choice of different and creative services to choose from, and we’ve created a thriving Open Banking FinTech eco-system in the process.

The next challenge is to extend this success from current accounts to the whole of the financial sector (Open Finance), and then on to other industries like online retailing and utilities too (Open Everything).

Consumers can become more powerful

Last but not least, consumers can become more powerful through transparency, partly because we can all make better-informed decisions about what we buy if the data is at our fingertips whenever we need it, and partly by shining a light on subsidies or sweetheart deals given to incumbents and special interests too.

The recent Subsidy Control Bill improves transparency significantly, and there’s another opportunity in the upcoming the Online Safety Bill if we grasp the opportunity to protect people from lies or only seeing one set of views about anything from products and services to vaccines and political campaigns.