UK CMA Eyes Big Tech's 90+ AI Ties Amid Competition Fears

UK's CMA flags Big Tech's AI investments, fearing a 'winner-takes-all' market with over 90 partnerships under scrutiny.

By Mackenzie Crow

4/11, 11:16 EDT
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Key Takeaway

  • UK's CMA highlights concerns over Big Tech's AI investments, revealing an "interconnected web" of 90+ partnerships among giants like Google and Apple.
  • Regulatory bodies in the EU and US, including the FTC, are investigating these firms' AI activities to maintain competition.
  • The CMA aims to prevent a "winner-takes-all" scenario in AI, potentially launching investigations to keep the market open for smaller firms.

AI Investments Under Scrutiny

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has raised concerns over the investments and partnerships in artificial intelligence (AI) by leading tech companies, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Meta Platforms Inc., Amazon.com Inc., and Nvidia Corp. The CMA's investigation into AI foundation models—AI systems adaptable to various tasks—has unveiled an "interconnected web" of over 90 partnerships and investments among these firms. This network, according to the CMA, could potentially allow these companies to "shape these markets in their own interests," further entrenching their market power.

Sarah Cardell, CEO of the CMA, expressed the agency's shift from curiosity to concern, emphasizing the need to learn from past digital market dynamics where a few platforms gained overwhelming control. The CMA aims to prevent a similar "winner-takes-all" scenario in the burgeoning AI market by ensuring a competitive landscape.

Regulatory Responses and Investigations

The CMA's findings have prompted a broader regulatory response, with the European Union and the US Federal Trade Commission also launching inquiries into the AI activities of these tech giants. The EU, through antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, is probing Microsoft's relationships with OpenAI and French AI startup Mistral, highlighting the transformative potential of AI on the marketplace and the importance of maintaining competition. Similarly, the FTC is investigating Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft's partnerships in AI.

These regulatory actions reflect a growing consensus on the need for vigilance in overseeing the AI sector, ensuring it remains competitive and does not consolidate power among a few dominant players. The CMA is considering using its forthcoming powers under the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill to address these concerns.

Market Power and Competition Concerns

The CMA's review has spotlighted the significant influence of six major technology companies in the AI sector through strategic investments and partnerships. This concentration of power, according to the CMA, poses risks to competition by potentially limiting market diversity and choice. The agency has identified three main risks: the control of critical inputs by dominant companies, the use of market power to distort AI service choices, and partnerships that exacerbate market power concentrations.

To counter these risks, the CMA has signaled its readiness to launch market investigations and merger reviews. The goal is to ensure that the AI market remains open and competitive, allowing smaller firms to thrive alongside the tech giants.