The U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. have signed an agreement to share information about competition laws and policies, with a focus on coordinating cases and investigations spanning international borders. Google and Facebook aren’t going to like this.
The Multilateral Mutual Assistance and Cooperation Framework for Competition Authorities technically isn’t legally binding, and is predominantly constructed by intention and expectation. Any party can withdraw at any time, with no enforceable obligation for anyone to do anything.
However, involved agencies have concurred that the agreement will strengthen existing cooperation arrangements, as well as provide a base framework for further collaboration. Under the agreement, the five countries have committed to help each other by sharing experience and coordinating cross-border antitrust investigations.
“The Framework sets a new standard for enforcement cooperation, strengthening our tools for international assistance and evidence gathering in the increasingly digital and global economy,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim. “We hope that it will provide a model for agencies around the world interested in enhancing international cooperation.”
The agreement came into effect on Sept. 2, and was signed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC); the Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau of the Government of Canada; the New Zealand Commerce Commission; the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
“The global economy is increasingly interconnected and many large companies, especially in the digital economy, now operate internationally,” said Rod Sims of the ACCC. “Competition regulators have to work together to ensure the companies comply with competition and consumer laws.”
Google and Facebook are unlikely to be fans of this development. Both tech giants have been vocally opposed to Australia’s proposed new laws regulating their dealings with local media, with Facebook even threatening to stop Australian users from sharing news content if they go ahead. These laws were developed after the ACCC investigated the impact of search engines and social media on competition in local media, and would require tech giants to pay Australian media companies for their content.
As such, Google and Facebook would probably prefer the ACCC not get too close to other competition authorities and give them ideas.
“We expect this cooperation will particularly benefit our existing and ongoing investigations of digital platforms, which are being closely watched by many agencies globally,” said Sims.