Press Releases

19 May 2021
ICO and CMA set out blueprint for cooperation in digital markets

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have published a joint statement, setting out their shared views on the relationship between competition and data protection in the digital economy.

The statement from the UK regulators for competition and data protection – the first of its kind globally – highlights the strong overlap between promoting and protecting competition in digital markets and safeguarding people’s data. Coherent and clear regulation is vital for creating the conditions that allow new innovative services to flourish and for people to have confidence in digital services.

The ICO and CMA affirm that rather than competition and data protection being in opposition, they are complementary agendas. The regulators have committed to work together to find regulatory solutions that achieve good competition and data protection outcomes.

Competitive digital markets, with coherent and well-targeted regulation, can empower consumers by giving them greater control over their personal data and driving positive competition outcomes.

The ICO and CMA are committed to continuing working together on projects that will put this joint statement into practice. This is already the case on the CMA’s investigation into Google’s Privacy Sandbox and the ICO’s investigation into real time bidding in the adtech industry.

This commitment has been reinforced through an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the ICO and CMA, which sets out how the two regulators will collaborate further in future, for example through information sharing and the potential for joint projects.

The MOU and the statement fit within a broader programme of work of the Digital Regulatory Cooperation Forum, involving the CMA, the ICO, Ofcom and the FCA, to support a coordinated regulatory approach across digital and online services.

Internationally, the ICO and CMA will engage with relevant organisations around the world to build consensus and promote global regulatory coherence and collaboration.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA Chief Executive, said:

Data plays a vital role in the digital economy - from suggesting new music or films that we may enjoy to helping us find relevant information when searching online. A well-functioning digital market needs to preserve privacy and offer competitive online services, empowering consumers.

This statement clearly shows robust data protection can support vibrant competition in digital markets, and digital firms should not use data protection as an excuse for anticompetitive behaviour. We look forward to continuing to work with the Information Commissioner’s Office to support the development of innovative digital markets that put consumers in control of their data.

Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner, said:

Modern data protection regulation is a vital ingredient for a vibrant digital economy. It provides a roadmap for companies to share personal data responsibly and to innovate in a privacy friendly way. It also requires that people have control and understanding of how their data is used, which is crucial for building the public trust that underpins successful digital markets.

In our increasingly digital world the links between data protection, competition and consumer rights regulation make our joint work timely and important. We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the CMA to ensure people’s data is safeguarded and digital innovation and competition is supported.

Notes to Editors

  1. The full joint statement and Memorandum of Understanding are available to read online.
  2. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA2018), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) and a further five Acts / Regulations.
  3. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is an independent non-ministerial department that works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK. CMA works to ensure that consumers get a good deal when buying goods and services, and businesses operate within the law.
  4. The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) was formed in July 2020 and it brings together the ICO, CMA, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Building on the strong working relationships among these organisations, the DRCF has been established to ensure a greater level of cooperation, given the unique challenges posed by regulation of online platforms and digital services. The DRCF has published its working priorities (PDF, 466KB) for the next twelve months.