DMCC Act 2024 receives Royal Assent

June 7, 2024

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Act 2024 has received Royal Assent.

As the name suggests, it covers three main areas: digital markets regulation, competition law reform, and consumer law reform.

Digital markets regulation

The new Act establishes a new pro-competition regime for digital markets. It gives the CMA the power to designate undertakings as having strategic market status regarding digital activity. The CMA will be able to impose conduct requirements on designated undertakings and, after investigating, make pro-competition interventions. Undertakings which have been designated as having strategic market status will be required to report particular mergers and to create compliance reports. The Act also gives the CMA new investigatory and enforcement powers.

Competition law reform

The Act also amends aspects of the mergers, markets and antitrust regimes in the Enterprise Act 2002 and Competition Act 1998. It is worth noting that it alters the jurisdictional scope of the Chapter I prohibition, changes the CMA’s antitrust investigation and enforcement powers, amends the merger jurisdictional thresholds and procedures, and revises procedures for market studies and investigations. It also amends the CMA’s powers to require the production of information held electronically and includes provisions about civil penalties and the extra-territorial reach of information notices.

Consumer law reform

The Act provides the CMA with new powers to enforce consumer protection law directly without having to go to court. The CMA will also be able to fine businesses which break consumer protection law up to 10% of their global turnover. The courts and the CMA will also be allowed to award compensation to consumers. When it comes to substantive consumer law, the Act introduces a new pre- and post-contract information and cancellation regime for subscription contracts. It also repeals and restates the unfair commercial practices regime in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, providing new powers for the government to add to the list of banned practices by secondary legislation. In addition, the Act introduces a new ban on submitting or commissioning fake consumer reviews and on publishing consumer reviews in a misleading way or without having taken reasonable and proportionate steps to verify them. It also contains provisions on “drip pricing”, requiring that specific pricing information must be included in any “invitation to purchase”. The Act also deals with consumer savings schemes and updates the consumer alternative dispute resolution regime.

Next steps

The Act will be largely brought into force by secondary legislation, so the new government will decide the timetable. Secondary legislation will clarify certain aspects of the new rules about subscription contracts and the CMA will be producing guidance.

The exceptions to this relate to mergers concerning newspapers and energy companies, which come into force right away and from 24 July respectively. The government can also make regulations under the powers under the Act right away.