This Week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

June 5, 2023

UK law

Call for evidence on Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill

The House of Commons Public Bill Committee has published a call for evidence in relation to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, which proposes reforms to competition and consumer law, in particular in relation to digital markets. The deadline for evidence is 18 July 2023.

CMA consults on proposed commitments in respect of Meta’s use of advertising data

The CMA is consulting on the commitments offered by Meta to address the CMA’s competition concerns in the context of its investigation under the Competition Act 1998. The CMA investigation relates to Meta’s conduct in relation to the collection and use of data obtained through the provision of digital display advertising services. Meta has offered to implement technical systems to prevent the use of certain advertising data for product development in competition with advertisers. The CMA provisionally considers that the proposed commitments address the competition concerns identified by the CMA for the reasons set out in the Notice of Intention to Accept Commitments. Therefore, subject to consultation responses, the CMA proposes to accept the proposed commitments. The consultation ends on 26 June 2023.

Parliamentary inquiry into UK supply chains and online marketplaces launched

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Consumer Protection, alongside the Chartered Trading Standards Institute have started a series of evidence sessions to identify challenges facing the UK supply chain and problems affecting consumers using online marketplaces. The inquiry coincides with the recent publication of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill and follows growing concern around the safety, reliability and standards of goods available to UK consumers. Trading Standards experts are deeply concerned about the number of unsafe goods that are available to consumers through many of the UK’s leading online marketplaces.

ICO publishes guidance on SARs for employers

The ICO has published guidance on subject access requests for business and employers. The right of access, (subject access request or SAR), gives someone the right to request a copy of their personal information from organisations. This includes where they got their information from, what they are using it for and who they are sharing it with. Individuals can request personal information held by their employer, or former employer, such as details of their attendance and sickness records, personal development or HR records. Organisations must respond to a SAR within one month of receipt of the request. However, this can be extended by up to two months if the SAR is complex. Failing to comply to SARs breaches the law. If organisations fail to respond to SARs promptly, or at all, they can be subject to fines or reprimand. From April 2022 to March 2023, 15,848 complaints related to SARs were reported to the ICO.

UK government reports progress in music streaming industry

The IPO has reported that the music industry has agreed commitments to improve music streaming metadata. The UK government is also establishing a working group on creator remuneration. Music streaming metadata is information which describes who contributed to a track’s creation, and how – such as who wrote a song, who performed on a recording, and who owns it. In the era of digital music, better quality metadata will support more accurate and timely payments for music creators from streaming. The voluntary agreement sets out a positive commitment from players across the UK music streaming industry to progressively improve metadata in new recordings, and deliver consistent crediting on streaming services over a two-year period. In addition to the commitments on metadata, the government will establish a working group to explore and consider industry-led actions on remuneration for existing and future creators. It will be discussing the formation of the group and terms of reference with industry stakeholders over the coming weeks, recognising the important of a successful and globally competitive music industry, and the need to consider wider issues facing creators and industry alike, including AI. The working group will be composed of representatives and experts from access the music sector and will consider the research and progress already made in this area. This includes the research commissioned and published by the IPO on music creators’ earnings and copyright.

Ofcom sets stricter thresholds for reporting Network and Information Systems incidents

Ofcom has lowered the thresholds for when Operators of Essential Services (OES) should inform them about incidents, which has the aim of ensuring that more cases of significant disruption being reported. Ofcom’s Network and Information Systems Guidance sets out the incident reporting thresholds for which Ofcom considers an incident to be of significant impact, and therefore when it expects OES to report incidents to them. Several outages have occurred recently in the Digital Infrastructure subsector that were not reported to Ofcom. While they fell below the previous reporting thresholds, Ofcom believes they could have had a significant impact on the continuity of essential services. As a result, following consultation, it has decided to lower the incident reporting thresholds in its NIS Guidance Improved visibility of incidents affecting UK users being reported to Ofcom will enable it to better understand causes of disruption to essential services, identify significant cyber security and resilience gaps and spot thematic trends.

Ofcom consults on proposal to apply Code powers to ServerHouse Limited

Ofcom is consulting on applying the Electronic Communications Code to ServerHouse Limited under section 107(6) of the Communications Act 2003. The Code is designed to facilitate the installation and maintenance of an electronic communications network, conferring rights which result in simplified planning procedures. The consultation ends on 27 June 2023.

Ofcom issues decision on OpenReach’s “Equinox 2” pricing offer

Ofcom has published its decision not to prevent Openreach from introducing its new pricing offer for full-fibre broadband, known as “Equinox 2”. Openreach is required to notify Ofcom about certain offers before they come into effect. This is to allow Ofcom to assess them before they are introduced, and where necessary to allow Ofcom to intervene to prevent them from being introduced. On 14 December 2022, Openreach notified Ofcom of a new pricing offer for its full-fibre services. This offer gives lower prices to retail providers – such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone – if they agree to use mainly Openreach’s full-fibre products for new orders instead of its legacy copper products. Ofcom has assessed the evidence available to it as well as responses to its consultation and has decided not to prevent Equinox 2 from being introduced.

EU law

European Commission adopts new Horizontal Block Exemption Regulation and Horizontal Guidelines

The European Commission has adopted revised Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations on Research and Development (R&D) and Specialisation agreements (HBERs), accompanied by revised Horizontal Guidelines, following evaluation and review of the current rules. The revised HBERs and Guidelines aim to provide businesses with clearer and up-to-date guidance to help them assess the compatibility of their horizontal cooperation agreements with EU competition rules. The new HBERs will enter into force on 1 July 2023, while the Guidelines will do so following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

Council of the EU formally adopts Regulation on machinery products

The Council has adopted the new regulation on machinery. It updates the 2006 Machinery Directive and transforms it into a regulation. It harmonises the essential health and safety requirements for machinery in the EU, promotes the free movement of machinery and aims to ensure a high level of safety for workers and citizens. It also requires a third-party conformity assessment for six categories of “high risk” machinery. Safety information will be required to be provided with every product but can be digital. However, paper instructions will remain an option for customers who request them. The new Regulation also covers new risks linked to emerging technologies and clarifies its scope. For example, it covers small vehicles used for personal transport and light electric vehicles such as scooters or bikes, as they are widely used and could potentially be dangerous to their users. The Regulations will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will enter into force on the twentieth day following its publication. Member states and economic operators will have 42 months before the new rules are applied.