Law Society seeks views about smart devices sold as part of fixtures and fittings of property, Ofcom consults on proposed guidance for on-demand services relating to European works, CMA secures changes to Xbox subscription practices and more in this week’s round-up of UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.
Law Society seeks views about smart devices sold as part of fixtures and fittings of property
The Law Society is seeking feedback about internet-connected or smart-connected devices sold as part of the fixtures and fittings of a property. This is so that it can review the TA10 fixtures and fittings form, which sets out what is included and excluded from a property sale price. The Law Society is asking for opinions about what issues should be considered with the transfer of smart products and internet-connected devices from the seller to the buyer of residential property and how this might affect the information that the seller completes in form TA10. The consultation ends on 28 February 2022.
Ofcom consults on proposed guidance for on-demand services relating to European works
Ofcom is consulting on proposed new guidance to help on-demand programme service providers to comply with their European works’ obligations. Its proposed guidance reflects the requirements of the Audio-visual Media Services Directive 2018 and its implementation in the UK following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Under the regulatory framework, on-demand service providers must ensure that each year, at least 30% of programmes included in their services are European works. The proposed guidance is designed to help ODPS providers understand and comply with these new requirements, in particular: the definition of European works; calculation of the new 30% quota; and the applicable exemptions from these requirements. The guidance also sets out Ofcom’s proposed approach in securing providers’ compliance. This includes issuing requests, beginning in 2023, for information and data on how the requirements are being met. The consultation ends on 22 March. Subject to responses, Ofcom plans to issue its final guidance this summer.
CMA secures changes to Xbox subscription practices
As part of an investigation into the online console video gaming sector the CMA identified concerns about certain features of Microsoft’s auto-renewing subscriptions, in particular: whether it was clear upfront that contracts would automatically renew; how easy it was to turn off automatic renewal; and whether people may not have realised they were still paying for services they no longer used. The CMA has now secured undertakings with Microsoft which are designed to address these concerns. There will be better upfront information: Microsoft will provide more transparent, upfront information to help customers understand their Xbox membership, making clear, for example, that the subscription will auto-renew unless the customer turns off auto-renewal; when the subscription will auto-renew; how much it will cost; and how the customer can receive a refund after an accidental renewal. It will also cover refunds: Microsoft will contact existing customers on recurring 12-month contracts and give them the option to end their contract and claim a pro-rata refund. The changes will also deal with inactive memberships: Microsoft will also contact existing customers who have not used their memberships for a long time but are still paying. These customers will be reminded how to stop payments, and if they continue not to use their memberships, Microsoft will ultimately stop taking further payments. Finally, there will be better information about price increases: Microsoft will give clearer notifications of any future price rises and will ensure people know how to turn off auto-renewal if they do not want to pay the higher price.
First publicity order granted under the Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2018
In Salt Ship Design AS v Prysmian Powerlink SRL  EWHC 3583 (Comm), the Commercial Court granted a publicity order under the Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/597) for the first time. It had earlier ruled in favour of the claimant, finding the defendant liable for breach of confidence and unlawful conspiracy for making the designer’s confidential documents available to the shipyard’s own designer. Subsequently, the claimant applied for an order that the defendant displays a statement on its website to reflect the liability decision and provide a link to the judgment, under regulation 18 of the Regulations. The court granted the order until June 2022.
Council of the European Union adopts position on a common charger for electronic devices
The EU is working on a draft legislation that proposes a common standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones, portable speakers and video game consoles. Member states have agreed on a negotiating mandate for the common charger proposal. The proposal aims to makes sure that it is no longer needed to buy a new charger every time a new mobile phone or similar item is purchased and that all devices can be recharged using the same charger. The proposal aims to improve consumer convenience by harmonising charging interfaces and fast charging technology. With the new law, the sale of chargers will be unbundled from the sale of electronic devices, so that a new charger will not necessarily be included when buying a new device. This aims to reduce the electronic waste associated with the production, transport and disposal of chargers. To improve consumer information, the Council added an annex to the proposal with a pictogram indicating whether a charging device is offered together with the device, as well as a label indicating charging specifications. The Council text also clarifies technical specifications for a common charger. The mandate was approved by ambassadors in the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee, which allows the Council presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament once the European Parliament agrees its position.
Extension of mobile roaming rules in the EU
The agreement between MEPs and Council to extend the “Roam like at Home” scheme for another ten years has been endorsed in the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy committee. Under the agreement, a follow-up to the 2017 elimination of roaming surcharges, consumers will continue to be able to use their mobile phones when travelling abroad in the EU with no additional fees on top of what they already pay at home. The agreement will be put to a vote during the 23-24 March plenary session. The Roaming Regulation mandated the end of retail roaming surcharges in the EU as of 15 June 2017. The regulation is currently in force until 30 June 2022.
General Court annuls fine imposed on Intel for abuse of dominance
The General Court has ruled in Intel Corporation, Inc v European Commission (Case T-286/09 RENV) on the issues remitted to it by the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding Intel's appeal against the European Commission's 2009 decision fining Intel over billion euros for breaching Article 102 of the TFEU. Intel was accused of giving financial incentives to computer manufacturers to exclude its smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices from European markets. It appealed the decision several times and the General Court has now agreed with Intel. It said “the analysis carried out by the Commission is incomplete and, in any event, does not make it possible to establish to the requisite legal standard that the rebates at issue were capable of having, or were likely to have, anti-competitive effects”.