This Week’s Techlaw News Round-Up

October 27, 2023

UK law

Competition Appeal Tribunal grants permission to serve out of jurisdiction in collective damages action against Google

The CAT has published a reasoned order in Case No: 1606/7/7/23 granting permission for the proposed class representative, S, to serve a collective proceedings claim form on Alphabet Inc, Google LLC and Google Ireland outside the jurisdiction. This relates to her action under section 47B of the Competition Act 1998. She contends that Google has abused a dominant position in the online search market and certain adjacent markets concerning mobile device functionality. The CAT considered that there is a good arguable case that the claim falls within the tort gateway under paragraph 3.1(9)(a) of the CPRs on the basis that damage is sustained within the UK. The alleged damage is the payment of an overcharge by consumers domiciled in the UK to businesses supplying goods and/or services in the UK. Therefore, the alleged damage is likely to have been sustained in the UK. The CAT concluded that the UK (and the CAT) was clearly and distinctly the appropriate forum for the trial of this claim and the CAT should use its discretion to permit service of proceedings out of the jurisdiction.

Ofcom publishes evidence submitted to governance of AI inquiry

Ofcom has published the evidence it submitted to the House of Commons Science Innovation and Technology Committees inquiry into AI governance. It sets out its views on the broad implications of AI in the sectors that it regulates, an explanation of how its powers relate to AI technologies, and an update on its work in relation to AI. Ofcom also provides an update on the technical capabilities it must perform its duties effectively, with the aim of ensuring that it is well prepared to respond to the impact of AI across its sectors. It also sets out its broad support for the governments work on developing a principles-based, non-statutory framework for regulating AI in the UK.

Ofcom consults on proposed changes to mobile phone repeaters regulations

Ofcom is proposing to make changes to existing regulations which govern the use of mobile phone repeaters. Indoor mobile repeaters (sometimes referred to as signal boosters) are devices typically used in residential properties to amplify a mobile signal. In 2018, Ofcom introduced regulations to enable the installation and use of a limited range of mobile repeater devices without a licence. Ofcom extended the scope of the licence exemption in 2022, with the aim of providing more choice for consumers. These regulations state, among other things, that static indoor repeaters designed to boost 4G mobile signal must also repeat a 2G and/or 3G signal. Mobile phone operators are starting to switch off their 3G signals to concentrate on delivering 4G and 5G services, and Ofcom expects them to also switch off their 2G signals in future. As a result, certain repeaters already manufactured and purchased by users on the basis that they are licence-exempt may no longer be able to fulfil the requirement to repeat the 2G/3G signal. Therefore, Ofcom is consulting on whether stakeholders agree that this requirement no longer remains necessary or proportionate. Ofcom is also proposing to update the technical requirements to enable in-vehicle mobile repeaters to amplify some 5G signals. The consultation ends on 4 December 2023.

EU law

IAB Europe launches version 2.2 of the Transparency and Consent Framework

IAB Europe has announced the launch of the Transparency & Consent Framework 2.2 to continue helping players in the online ecosystem comply with certain requirements of the ePrivacy Directive and the UK GDPR. Approved by the TFC Working Group, the iterations bring further standardisation of the information and choices that should be provided to users about the processing of their personal data, and how these choices should be captured, communicated and respected. IAB Europe says that changes in case law as well as in guidelines of data protection authorities place higher demands on market participants in terms of data protection, and the TCF 2.2. brings meaningful changes in an attempt to better meet the expectations of regulators and needs of end-users.

Commission adopts rules on independent audits under the Digital Services Act

The European Commission has adopted a Delegated Regulation with rules on independent audits to assess compliance of Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines with the Digital Services Act. Under the DSA, independent auditors must assess, at least once a year, compliance of Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines with all DSA obligations and produce reports. The Delegated Regulation sets out the steps the designated services must apply to verify the capabilities and independence of their auditor. It also sets out the main principles that auditors should apply when performing DSA audits. The auditors will use templates to produce the independent audits, while Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines will use templates to produce their implementation reports. Mandatory templates aim to ensure that the reports from different services can be compared meaningfully. Audits represent an important accountability tool and are part of the DSA’s various transparency requirements. The rules apply within three months if no objection is raised by the other EU institutions. The European Commission had reported that the first seven designated platforms have published their transparency reports are required under the DSA.

Commission services sign administrative arrangements with French and Irish media regulators to support enforcement of Digital Services Act

The Commission services have signed administrative arrangements with the media regulators of France (Autorité de
regulation de la communication audiovisuelle et numérique, Arcom) and Ireland (Coimisiún na Meán), to support its supervisory and enforcement powers under the Digital Services Act. These arrangements aim at developling expertise and capabilities and follow the Commission Recommendation to member states for coordinating their response to the spread and amplification of illegal content on Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines, ahead of the deadline for member states to enforce the DSA. The arrangements will be of particular importance until the establishment of the Board of Digital Services Coordinators, which is due in February 2024 and will be composed of independent Digital Service Coordinators of the member states.

Council adopts legislation on contracting financial services online or by phone

The Council of the EU has adopted a Directive which repels the existing legislation from 2002 and introduces new provisions for financial services contracts concluded at a distance as an additional chapter of the Consumer Rights Directive. it simplifies the legislative framework, and certain articles of the Consumer Rights Directive will also apply to financial services sold at a distance. The final text of the Directive clarifies the scope of application and the safety net-financial services, improves the rules on information disclosure and modernises pre-contractual information obligations (leaving it open for member states to impose stricter national rules in this area), establishes the right of consumers to request human intervention on sites that display automatic information tools like robo-advice or chatbots, facilitates the right of withdrawal from contracts concluded at a distance through an easy-to-find ‘withdrawal function’ in the provider’s interface, and introduces additional protection for consumers from dark patterns. After being signed by the President of the European Parliament and the President of the Council, the Directive will be published in the Official Journal of the EU and will enter into force on the 20th day following its publication.