This Week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

April 14, 2023

UK law

Data Protection Act 2018 (Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 made

The Data Protection Act 2018 (Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/414) have been made. Paragraph 14 of Schedule 20 provides a transitional exemption for an automated processing system set up before 6 May 2016 from complying with the requirements of section 62(1) to (3) of the 2018 Act, if doing so would involve disproportionate effort. The Regulations amend paragraph 14 to extend the availability of the exemption until 6th May 2026. The Regulations come into force on 5 May 2023.

CMA investigates Wowcher over online “urgency” claims

The Competition and Markets Authority has announced that it will be investigating if Wowcher has misled consumers by using countdown timers and other urgency claims, which may place unfair pressure on consumers to complete their purchases quickly. This announcement marks the next stage in the CMA’s programme of enforcement work focussing on so-called “Online Choice Architecture”, which aims to tackle potentially harmful online selling practices. It follows the launch of the CMA’s investigation into Emma Sleep in late 2022. The CMA’s investigation of Wowcher will also examine other online selling practices used by Wowcher, including how it enrols customers in its membership scheme.

ICO publishes guidance on generative AI and responds to AI White Paper

The ICO has published guidance on generative AI and eight questions both developers and users should ask. Organisations either developing or using generative AI should consider data protection obligations from the beginning and take a data protection “design and by default” approach. The ICO has also published its response to the UK government’s AI White Paper. It agrees that an approach to AI governance should be context-specific, risk-based, coherent, proportionate and adaptable.

CMA says that price cap on Airwave Network “only option” to reduce cost to emergency services

The Airwave Network provides the essential dedicated mobile network that the police, fire, ambulance and other emergency services use to communicate securely. A market investigation by the CMA has found that the market is not working well, and the emergency services have no choice but to carry on using the Airwave Network. As a result, it says that Motorola, which owns the company that operates the network, can charge the Home Office (which negotiates the contracts on behalf of the emergency services) prices well above competitor levels, resulting in higher costs which are ultimately paid by taxpayers. The CMA, using its powers under the Enterprise Act 2002, has imposed a price cap to limit the price that Motorola can charge to a level that would apply in a well-functioning, competitive market, putting an end to the estimated £200m per year of over-charging. There will be a review in 2026, but the cap has been set to apply to the end of 2029.

Ofcom investigates broadband providers for failing to implement simpler switching

Ofcom has opened an industry-wide enforcement programme regarding the failed implementation of new broadband switching process, as the industry has missed the deadline for launching the new service. On 3 April, new rules came into force requiring landline and broadband providers to operate the “One Touch Switch” process for residential consumers. These followed consultation with the industry. Ofcom has been closely monitoring industry’s progress in implementing the changes, so that providers would be ready to meet the requirements by 3 April. It says that the new process has not been introduced on time. As a result, it has launched an industry-wide enforcement programme, following the failure to meet a regulatory deadline.

UK government responds to follow up report on the Economics of Music Streaming

The Digital Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has published the government’s response to its follow-up report on the Economics of Music Streaming. The government has accepted key recommendations from the Committee to provider greater transparency on music streaming work and a more proactive approach to cultural policy. The agreed recommendations include publishing agendas and minutes of the government’s working groups on metadata and transparency, and publishing a Sector Vision of its ambitions in the creative industry until 2023.

CMA and IPO issues memorandum of understanding

The CMA and the IPO have published a memorandum of understanding setting out the working arrangements between the two organisations. The MoU will be reviewed at least every three years and any changes will be subject to the agreement of both parties.

IPO publishes guidance on NFTs, virtual goods and metaverse services classification

The Intellectual Property Office has published statutory guidance on the classification of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual goods, and services provided in the metaverse. It informs customers applying for UK trade marks about the IPO’s approach to the classification of the above types of goods and services. It applies as of 3 April 2023.

PhonePayPlus issues ICSS Compliance update

The PSA has serious concerns regarding the promotion and operation of Information, Connection and Sign-posting Services (ICSS). The findings of a thematic review and recently completed enforcement work have brough to the PSA’s attention multiple issues concerning the transparency of information that is needed to enable consumers to make informed decisions and the fair and equitable treatment of consumers. While it is consulting on proposed changes to its Code of Practice which aim to improve consumer understanding of ICSS and reduce associated detriment, the PSA has issued a compliance update to remind providers of what is currently required. This compliance update covers three areas where there are concerns: transparency of key information (including pricing prominence); fairness, and ICSS text message receipts.

UK government publishes Wireless Infrastructure Strategy

The UK government has published its Wireless Infrastructure Strategy. It is a policy framework to drive deployment and adoption of 5G and advanced wireless connectivity; and the government’s 6G strategy for the UK. For more information, see the press release.

UK government announces deal to join CPTPP

The UK government as announced that the UK will be joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (which consists of eleven countries). Among other things, the accession of the UK means that UK firms will not be required to establish a local office or be resident to supply a service and will be able to operate on a par with local firms. The CPTPP also sets modern rules for digital trade.

EU law

European Commission clears acquisition of Photomath by Google

The European Commission has approved unconditionally under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of Photomath, Inc by Google LLC. The Commission concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the EEA. Google is a technology company active in a wide range of produce areas, including online search, app store services and several online homework and study help tools. Photomath owns an online homework and study help app that uses a smartphone’s camera to scan and solve maths problems. Based on its market investigation, The Commission found that the transaction would not significantly reduce competition in the markets for: (i) online homework and study help tools that include maths as a subject offering and (ii) general search services.

BEUC calls for EU investigation into chatbot technology

The European Consumers Organisation has called for EU and national authorities to launch an investigation into ChatGPT and similar chatbots. Although the EU is currently working on the AI Act, BEUC’s concern is that it would take yearns before the AI Act takes effect, leaving consumers at risk of harm from a technology which is not sufficiently regulated during this interim period and for which consumers are not prepared.

European Commission calls for evidence on virtual worlds

The European Commission has called for evidence on virtual worlds/metaverses. The European Commission says that it will develop a vision for emerging virtual worlds (metaverses), based on respect for digital rights and EU laws and values. The aim is open, interoperable and innovative virtual worlds that can be used safely and with confidence by the public and businesses. Informed by input from a “citizens’ panel”, this initiative would describe this vision, address opportunities and societal challenges, and announce upcoming implementation measures. The consultation ends on 3 May 2023.