The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK) has proposed amendments to the Competition Act, signalling a tougher stance against Big Tech as the government moves to protect local companies from anti-competitive behaviours. Anti-competitive behaviours include companies executing mergers and acquisitions to kill their competition, restricting third-party services on their platforms, and limiting customers’ options by linking only the main and complementary products. 

Suppose the proposed amendments to the Competition Act become law. In that case, CAK will have the power to police fair market practices and protect consumers’ rights in the digital and tech space currently dominated by a few foreign giants.

The law will give the competition watchdog powers to open antitrust probes of tech firms like Google, Amazon, X, and Apple, mirroring similar cases gripping the industry in the United States and Europe.  

“The Competition Act (hereinafter referred to as the “principal Act”) is amended in section 2 by—inserting “digital activities” means the provision of a service by means of the internet, or provision of digital content, for the benefit of business consumers or other consumers (whether paid for or otherwise and whether or not such activity is multisided),” the amendment read.

The agency has given stakeholders up to June 11, 2024, to submit their views on the draft legislation.

The proposed law has singled out eight sectors including online intermediation services, online marketplaces and app stores, online search engines, online social networking services, and video-sharing platform services.

Others are independent interpersonal communication services operating systems, cloud computing services, and online advertising services.

CAK will conduct compliance checks on foreign tech firms to establish whether their activities have exposed rivals to unfair competition. The new law will permit the agency to use issues raised in other markets to make decisions.

“This change has been necessitated by the fact that there are companies in the digital market whose market shares are below the threshold of dominance but whose conduct has the same negative effect on competition as dominant players. The envisioned enforcement procedure is the same as that enumerated in the current law. The proposed changes also introduce the criteria for establishing a strategic market position,” CAK said.

While the European Union (EU), UK, and US have taken enforcement actions against tech firms, African countries have taken a backseat without strong antitrust laws and competition institutions. Facebook-owned Meta, Apple, and Google have faced anti-competition scrutiny in Europe, ending in multi-million fines paid to the competition watchdogs.  

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