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Tech giants are guilty of 'bullying tactics,' says Obama's former economic advisor

A report published in the UK says the big tech companies are overly powerful.

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The biggest US tech companies are household names all over the world.

Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images

The world's largest technology companies are overly dominant and should have more competition, according to a report published in the UK on Wednesday.

The review by a panel of experts was led by Harvard professor and former chief economic advisor to Barack Obama John Furman. It also concluded that UK competition rules are not fit for holding technology companies to account. They should be updated to tackle major mergers and improve enforcement, Furman said.

The review coincides with remarks made earlier this week by US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who added Apple to the list of companies she wanted to break up for being too powerful.

The knock-on effect of companies being overly powerful is that consumers will have less decision-making power. It's a primary concern of competition watchdogs when regulating tech giants to ensure people have a number of choices when it comes to spending their money, and have the ability to go elsewhere if they feel disappointed or underserved by a company.

Furman noted in the review that competition is often stifled in the tech world by big companies using "bullying tactics" to stay in control. They do this by pointing consumers towards using services they also own, or by leveraging their wealth to undercut competitors.

"The digital sector has created substantial benefits but these have come at the cost of increasing dominance of a few companies, which is limiting competition and consumer choice and innovation," said Furman in a statement. "Some say this is inevitable or even desirable. I think the UK can do better."

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of UK watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority, said insights gleaned from the report would be "invaluable" for updating regulation that will govern tech in the future.

"Competition is fundamental to ensuring the market works in the interest of consumers, but we know some tech giants are still accumulating too much power, preventing smaller businesses from entering the market," said Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond in a statement. He added that he would study Furman's proposals closely and respond with an action plan for implementing the changes later this year.