The competition watchdog is’really concerned’ about the AI dominance of big tech

The UK’s Competition Regulator has expressed “real concern” that Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are using their dominance of the artificial intelligence world in a manner that could harm customers.

The Competition and Markets Authority is currently looking at AI Foundation Models, which are powerful digital engines for AI. These include the large language models used to power services like ChatGPT and Google Bard, and that are trained using massive data sets.

These engines are capable of generating code or images based on human language instructions. They also form the basis for many new technologies and developments in the AI sector.

The authority identified 90 strategic partnerships and investments that involved the largest technology companies. These include Google, Apple and Microsoft. Meta Platforms and Amazon.

The regulator noted that, along with these partnerships and the ownership of software and app stores, these large tech companies controlled key resources such as raw data, computing power and other critical resources for developing generative AI and their potential market routes.

The authority said that it is also determined to learn lessons from the last decade when the power in the digital realm became concentrated in a few businesses.

Global regulators are concerned that AI is developing rapidly and has the potential to cause social disruption, such as by replacing jobs. They want to make sure big tech cannot shape AI markets in their favor.

The authority began its review of AI-based foundation models in May, and published its first report in September. ‘s concern about a possible lack of competition grew since then.

Sarah Cardell said, “The fundamental challenge we face is to harness this exciting technology for all while safeguarding against possible exploitation of market dominance and unintended effects.”

She said that the CMA is determined to “apply lessons from history” during what it described as “a pivotal moment” in a new and transformative technology.

Cardell stated that “when we began this work, our curiosity was high.” Cardell said that after a thorough understanding of the situation and after closely monitoring developments, they have serious concerns.

CMA isn’t the only regulator looking into big tech’s dominance in artificial intelligence. Lina Khan of the US regulator Federal Trade Commission launched a probe into generative AI partnerships and investments in January.

The French antitrust regulator has launched a consultation with the public this month. It warned that the sector is rapidly taking shape, centered around companies who “already have strong presence on adjacent markets”, according to the authority.

The CMA announced an official review of Microsoft’s multi-billion dollar partnership with OpenAI to determine if the pairing was really a merger between the two companies. Cardell said that they were “keeping a very close eye on current and emerging partnership”.

The watchdog said that in addition to its existing powers, which include those that allow for it to review mergers and purchases, it could use new tools available under the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, to potentially take actions against big tech.

The new report is only one of many battles between regulators, big tech companies and their dominance in other fields than artificial intelligence.

The CMA has already examined Microsoft’s acquisition of gaming publisher Activision Blizzard and the Department of Justice in the US has sued Apple over monopolisation of smartphone markets.

Since 2021, the European Union’s competition regulator has been investigating Google’s online display advertising.