This Week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

May 14, 2020

ICO issues statement on Adtech work

The ICO has issued a statement pausing its work on Adtech. It said: “The ICO recently set out its regulatory approach during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we spoke about reassessing our priorities and resources. Taking this into account we have made the decision to pause our investigation into real time bidding and the Adtech industry. It is not our intention to put undue pressure on any industry at this time but our concerns about Adtech remain and we aim to restart our work in the coming months, when the time is right.”

Ofcom issues update on introducing new rules from the European Electronic Communications Code

Ofcom has published an update on the process for bringing in new rules that will apply once the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) comes into force in the UK. In December 2019 Ofcom consulted on introducing a number of new customer rights from the EECC, which the UK is required to bring into law. The transposition deadline is 21 December 2020. Ofcom plans to publish a statement on introducing the new rights in September 2020, subject to government confirming its approach to introducing the EECC into UK law before then. Ofcom recognises that the coronavirus has brought significant challenges to communications providers. Therefore, providers are likely to need additional time to make the necessary changes to their systems and processes to comply with the new rules. As a result, Ofcom intends to allow providers at least 12 months from the date of its statement to make the new rights available to customers. If certain rules require very significant changes to providers’ systems, the implementation period may be longer. It will set out the specific implementation deadlines for each of the new rules it intends to bring in later this year.

Law Society issues position on virtual execution and e-signature during pandemic

The Law Society has published its position on the use of virtual execution and e-signature during the pandemic. It brings together a variety of established guidance in relation to virtual execution and the use of e-signatures. The Law Society says it welcomed the justice secretary’s positive response to the Law Commission’s work on electronic execution in early March (before the severity of the COVID-19 crisis unfolded), and look forward to participating in further work on this issue. The current pandemic and subsequent social distancing rules and the lockdown have placed an increased focus on the ability to conduct non-face to face transactional closings, as traditional processes are unable to continue. Whether it is appropriate to use an electronic signature may depend on any relevant legislation, regulatory requirements within the specific practice area and the type of document being signed or executed. For example, wills are excluded from the scope of the Law Society’s guidance. HM Land Registry has its own rules in relation to electronic signatures, and not all documents bearing an electronic signature are admissible for registration at Companies House.  

Particular attention needs to be paid to documents which must be presented to a notary and sent overseas.

TheCityUK publishes report saying UK regulatory approach to FinTech needs to grow along with the sector

TheCityUK and PA Consulting have issued a report on Fintech regulation. It says that while the UK has set the global standard for an effective and supportive approach to FinTech regulation, as the sector matures, change is needed to help launch more firms successfully into the global market. The report found that firms welcomed the UK’s progressive approach to FinTech regulation. However, regulatory hurdles remain a barrier and difficult to understand. The sector is calling for FinTech regulation to be consolidated and made more user friendly, particularly if the UK is to maintain its global leadership in the FinTech market. The UK is seeing the emergence of an increasingly sophisticated FinTech ecosystem as start-ups, technology firms and established operators step up their collaboration efforts. The report focuses on four key elements which are essential to supporting the next stage of UK FinTech growth: clarifying regulatory support and engagement; building on success by delivering new initiatives; integrating innovation across the supervisory framework; and strengthening support of FinTech expansion into overseas markets.

IPOL study calls for pioneering legal framework for digital services

The Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies (IPOL) has published its study on digital service developments and looks at the possible effects they will have on the Digital Services Act. The study was requested by the European Parliament’s committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. The underlying narrative of the report is that foreseeable developments in digital services require Europe to develop an appetite for digital leadership in the world. Three main recommendations are given in the study: firstly, a European cloud / European internet could secure a reliable, trustworthy digital ecosystem in Europe; secondly, funding programmes for eGovernment would use the innovative capabilities of start-ups throughout Europe to create the most digital and advanced government in the world. Thirdly, all this should be communicated in a visionary and exciting way, making sure the right regulations are in place, but also encouraging boldness and showing a willingness to change.

House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee issues call for evidence on online harms

In recent weeks, concerns have been raised that the lockdown period in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has seen an increase in malicious or harmful activity online. This has included fake news and disinformation, notably widespread social media coverage alleging a link between Covid-19 and the 5G cellular network. Fears have also been raised that there has been a rise in online criminality, including child abuse and exploitation, revenge pornography, fraud and scams. The Home Affairs Committee invites evidence on: the nature, prevalence and scale of online harms during the Covid-19 period; steps that could be taken to mitigate these concerns; and the adequacy of the Government’s Online Harms proposals to address issues arising from the pandemic, as well as issues previously identified. The consultation ends on 21 May 2020.

European Commission publishes assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice on Disinformation

The European Commission has published a study assessing the policies and tools adopted by the online platforms to implement the commitments made in the Code of Practice against Disinformation. The overall conclusions of the study are that the Code of Practice should not be abandoned. It has established a common framework to tackle disinformation, its aims and activities are highly relevant and it has produced positive results. It constitutes a first and crucial step in the fight against disinformation and shows European leadership on an issue that is international in nature. Some drawbacks relate to its self-regulatory nature, the lack of uniformity of implementation and the lack of clarity around its scope and some of the key concepts. The implementation of the Code should continue and its effectiveness could be strengthened by agreeing on terminology and definitions. Finally, the study suggests a mechanism for action in case of non-compliance. To that effect, the European Commission should consider proposals for co-regulation within which appropriate enforcement mechanisms, sanctions and redress mechanisms should be established.