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CMA Flags Big Tech’s Tightening Hold on AI Markets

Competition | April 11, 2024

CMA AI Foundation Models Update Paper - CMA Flags Big Tech's Tightening Hold on AI Markets

Image: Competition & Markets Authority (UK)

Competition and Markets Authority Tackles AI Foundation Model Concerns

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently intensified its scrutiny on AI foundation models (FMs), highlighting serious concerns regarding market competition and consumer protection. As the AI landscape evolves rapidly, the CMA's proactive regulatory efforts aim to ensure that the development of generative AI technologies, such as large language models underpinning systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, does not compromise market fairness or consumer safety.

Key Concerns and Strategic Reviews

In a comprehensive update delivered by CMA CEO Sarah Cardell, the authority outlined three critical risks to fair, open, and effective competition:

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  1. The possibility that dominant firms may limit access to and control critical input resources such as compute power and data, potentially stifling competition.
  2. Incumbents might exploit their market position and power to influence consumer choices and restrict competition in FM services.
  3. The CMA has noted over 90 strategic partnerships and investments involving major tech firms, which could further entrench market power if not properly managed.

"Without fair, open, and effective competition and strong consumer protection, underpinned by these principles, we see a real risk that the full potential of organisations or individuals to use AI to innovate and disrupt will not be realised, nor its benefits shared widely across society." Sarah Cardell, Opening Remarks American Bar Association

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The authority is proactively using its legal powers, including market investigations and merger reviews, to address these risks.  The CMA’s recent activities include a close examination of the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, which is under review to determine if it constitutes a 'relevant merger situation' that might unfairly impact the competitive landscape.

Broader Regulatory Environment

The scrutiny by the CMA is part of a broader regulatory effort across the UK and Europe to manage the integration of AI into the economy and society responsibly. The forthcoming Digital Markets Act in the EU and similar regulatory updates in the UK reflect a growing consensus on the need for stringent guidelines to govern the development and deployment of AI technologies.

These regulations aim to ensure that AI advancements do not lead to monopolistic practices and are developed under stringent safety, security, and fairness guidelines. The UK government and the CMA emphasize the importance of maintaining competition and innovation while safeguarding consumer interests and promoting economic benefits from AI technologies.


As AI technologies continue to evolve, regulatory bodies like the CMA are crucial in ensuring that these technologies benefit consumers and the broader economy without compromising competitive fairness.

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The CMA's proactive stance will likely shape the future landscape of AI development and market competition, setting a precedent for how emerging technologies are integrated into our digital and economic infrastructures.

Download the 24 page PDF Update report --> here

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