This Week's Techlaw News Round-Up

Gambling Commission reforms to online gambling, Court of Appeal decision upholds Upper Tribunal Decision on Electronic Communications Code, CMA requires viagogo to sell StubHub’s international business, PRS online event licencing, and more in this week’s round-up of UK and EU techlaw developments.

UK news

Gambling Commission announces package of changes aimed at making online games safer by design

The Gambling Commission has announced a package of measures aimed at strengthening the protections and controls for those who gamble through online slots games – including introducing limits on spin speeds, and the permanent ban on features that speed up play or celebrate losses as wins. The Commission has focused on online slots games because of features which increase the intensity of play and the corresponding risks to players. Slot games have by far the highest average losses per player of online gambling products. The new rules include the outright ban of four key features of online slots games: features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over the outcome; slot spin speeds faster than 2.5 seconds; autoplay, which can lead to players losing track of their play, and sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to, or below, a stake. Other changes include: the permanent ban on reverse withdrawals – a function which allows consumers to re-gamble money they had previously requested to withdraw; and anew requirement for operators to clearly display to the player their total losses or wins and time played during any online slots session. The enhanced protections will need to be fully implemented by online operators by 31 October 2021.

Court of Appeal upholds decision in Electronic Communications Code

The Electronic Communications Code regulates the rights of telecommunications operators to install and maintain their apparatus on public and private land. The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the Upper Tribunal in Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd v Compton Beauchamp Estates Ltd [2019] EWCA Civ 1755. It said that where an operator remains in occupation under a tenancy which is protected by the security of tenure provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (1954 Act), it cannot seek a new Code agreement under Part 4 of the Code. The operator must follow the procedure under the 1954 Act and apply to the County Court for a new tenancy, the terms of which are to be determined in accordance with the 1954 Act.  The decision was the first by the Court of Appeal about the Code, which it called “fiendishly complex”. There is currently a consultation on changes to the Code as the UK government believes that aspects of the Code are not working as originally intended. It ends on 24 March 2021.

CMA requires viagogo to sell StubHub’s international business

The CMA has concluded that a proposed merger between viagogo and Stubhub will lead to a substantial reduction in competition in the secondary ticketing market in the UK. This could lead to customers who use secondary ticketing platforms facing higher fees or poorer service in future. To address this concern, the CMA is requiring viagogo to sell StubHub’s business outside North America. This will mean that the StubHub international business, including in the UK, will be independently owned and run by a separate company, with no input from viagogo. The CMA will determine key conditions of the sale, such as the right of the purchaser to use the StubHub brand for the next 10 years. The CMA will also need to approve the purchaser of the business before any sale. Viagogo acquired StubHub in February 2020. StubHub’s ticketing business operates in a number of territories including North America, the UK and several countries in Europe, and South America and Asia. In the UK, viagogo and StubHub are the two main providers of secondary ticketing platforms. The evidence shows that viagogo and StubHub compete closely against each other in the UK’s secondary ticketing market and have no significant competitors. Together, they have a combined market share of more than 90%. The CMA has been mindful of the significant impact that the pandemic is currently having on the live events industry throughout its investigation. However, the evidence is that viagogo and StubHub would remain important competitors as and when the live events industry recovers.

ASA tells influencers not to use misleading filters on their ads

The ASA has upheld complaints that Instagram filters exaggerated the efficacy of the advertised cosmetic product. The ASA ruled that the ads were misleading. The ASA understood that filters were included as an in-app feature on Instagram, and they included ‘beauty filters’ which were designed to enhance a person’s appearance. It was common for such filters to be applied when sharing selfies and videos to social networks. It considered that the use of filters in ads was not inherently problematic, but that advertisers of cosmetic products needed to take particular care not to exaggerate or otherwise misled consumers regarding the product advertised. In this case, which was for a tanning product, the filter resulted in a significantly darker skin tone. Because the ads conveyed a tanning effect of the product, the ASA considered that the application of the filter was directly relevant to the claimed performance of the product and gave a misleading impression about the performance capabilities of the product.

New plans for seamless broadband switching

Ofcom is consulting on a proposed “one touch” switching process for consumer broadband. Under this process, a customer would contact their chosen new provider and give their details.  They would then automatically receive important information from their current provider, such as any early contract termination charges they might have to pay, and how the switch could affect other services the customer has with the company. If the customer wants to go ahead, the new provider would then manage the switch. Ofcom is consulting on the proposals until 31 March 2021, and aims to publish its decision in the summer. Providers will need to make significant changes to their systems and processes, which means the new rules will come into force in December 2022.

PRS for Music launches new Online Live Concert licence for small-scale livestreamed gigs

PRS for Music has launched a new licensing portal for music creators, venues and promoters wanting to stage and livestream small-scale gigs, DJ events, classical concerts and theatrical events online. The portal has been launched in response to the huge rise in livestreamed concerts as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Available for live online events staged in the UK with revenues below £500, the new portal will allow the event organiser to pay the fixed licence fee and obtain the necessary rights for their event simply and quickly. PRS for Music will not be actively pursuing licences for livestreamed events that took place prior to the launch of the new portal, which would have qualified for the fixed fee licence. Online live concerts are a form of video exploitation and require a licence for the same rights as any other type of online music usage. In normal circumstances, online live concerts are an incremental revenue stream to live performance. PRS for Music, however, recognises that as long as the physical live sector remains closed, livestreamed concerts, whilst still a different form of exploitation to a physical gig or concert, are in part substitutional for physical gigs and concerts. As such, PRS for Music is proposing to apply temporary discounted rates until the live sector can reopen. 

Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill receives second reading in House of Commons

The Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill has received its second reading in the House of Commons, having received cross-party support in the House of Lords. The Bill covers airspace management,  air traffic licensing and unmanned aircraft, making provision about airspace change proposals and about the licensing regime for air traffic services under Part 1 of the Transport Act 2000, to confer police powers relating to unmanned aircraft and requirements in Air Navigation Orders and to provide for fixed penalties for certain offences relating to unmanned aircraft.

EU news

European Commission publishes report on disinformation: extended platforms' monitoring programme with focus on vaccines

The European Commission has published a set of reports on further actions taken by the signatories of the Code of Practice on Disinformation to fight coronavirus disinformation. They show that platforms have enhanced the visibility of authoritative content with millions of users directed to dedicated informative resources. They also included policies in their terms of services to remove disinformation on vaccines, notably blocking hundreds of thousands accounts, offers and advertiser submissions related to coronavirus and vaccine-related misinformation and stepped up their work with fact checkers to make fact-checked content on vaccination more prominent. This batch of reports marks the end of the initial six months reporting period. Given the relevance of this reporting in the current epidemiological context, the programme will continue for the next six months. The Commission also asked online platforms to provide more data on the evolution of the spread of disinformation during the coronavirus crisis and on the detailed effect of their actions at the level of EU countries. The latest reports focus on actions taken in December 2020 by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and TikTok.

European Commission consults on European Interoperability Framework evaluation and strategy

The European Commission is consulting on the EU initiatives around public sector interoperability. The Commission has proposed to put forward by 2021 a reinforced EU governments interoperability strategy to ensure coordination and common standards for secure and borderless public sector data flows and services. This initiative needs to be accompanied by a study assessing the problems experienced by EU stakeholders and the impacts of various policy options for addressing them. The findings will contribute to the impact assessment and help assess whether the European Interoperability Framework recommendations should be part of a mandatory instrument. 

IAB Europe publishes updated guide on third party cookies

IAB Europe has published an updated guide on third party cookies. It has been developed by experts from IAB Europe’s Programmatic Trading Committee to prepare brands, agencies, publishers and tech intermediaries for the much-anticipated post third-party cookie advertising ecosystem. It covers questions such as how the depletion of third-party cookies will affect stakeholders and the wider industry including Proprietary Platforms. It also asks how will the absence of third-party cookies have an effect on the execution of digital advertising campaigns? It also considers the solutions that currently exist to replace the usage of third-party cookies as well as industry solutions are currently being developed and by whom. It also covers alternative solutions, how companies can get involved in contributing to the industry wide solutions and how organisations can identify ID solutions to test and work effectively. This guide will continue to be regularly updated to reflect the changes and developments within the industry.

Published: 2021-02-05T13:00:00

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