The UK government set out its vision for how it intends to tackle the dominance of technology giants including Facebook and Google, but indications are its new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) is not yet being given the statutory powers needed to set rules and impose financial penalties.

In a statement, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) explained the DMU would be given the authority to oversee major technology companies as the government moves to broaden consumer choice in areas including smartphone operating systems and social media.

The DMU is a unit with the UK Competition and Markets Authority launched in 2021. However, for the moment it remains in non-statutory form, with the government still due to vote through legislation enabling legal action against companies.

Ultimately, the DMU will be given the power to fine technology companies up to 10 per cent of their global turnover if they ignore the rules, with senior executives to “face tough penalties”, the DCMS stated.

At the same time, the government appeared to give only loose promises about when a full bill for the DMU would eventually be produced, stating it would introduce the required legislation “in due course”.

Financial Times (FT) reported the government will announce a draft bill including powers for the DMU in the Queen’s Speech on 10 May, but not move to finalise plans until later this year.

As a result, the new watchdog may not receive statutory powers until the following parliamentary session running from 2023 to 2024 at the earliest, FT noted.

The UK’s move comes at a time of growing political scrutiny of the power wielded by large technology companies: the European Union recently made progress with its efforts to regulate the sector.