CMA finds NortonLifeLock purchase of Avast could reduce competition, Ofcom consults on space spectrum strategy, and more in this week’s round-up of UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.
CMA finds NortonLifeLock purchase of Avast could reduce competition
The Competition and Markets Authority has found that NortonLifeLock’s purchase of Avast raises competition concerns and may now be referred for an in-depth investigation. NortonLifeLock and Avast both offer cyber safety software to consumers under a variety of different brands. Products include antivirus software (also known as endpoint security software), privacy software (such as VPNs) and identity protection software. As the companies are close competitors, with few other significant rivals, the CMA is concerned that if completed the proposed deal could lead to a reduction in competition in the UK market. This could lead to UK consumers getting a worse deal when looking for cyber safety software in the future. NortonLifeLock and Avast had five working days from the CMA’s comments to submit proposals to address the CMA’s competition concerns. The CMA how has a further five working days to consider whether to accept any offer instead of referring the case for an in-depth phase 2 investigation.
Ofcom consults on space spectrum strategy
Ofcom is consulting on space spectrum strategy. The space sector is one of the biggest users of spectrum and delivers a wide range of services such as satellite broadband, broadcast TV services, global positioning services and communications in emergency situations. Satellites used for Earth observation services are also important in collecting data used to monitor weather and climate change. Ofcom’s previous strategy for spectrum work in the space sector was set out in January 2017. The core principles of that strategy remain relevant. However, since 2017, the sector has undergone significant change and rapid expansion. These developments create new challenges for regulating the space sector’s use of spectrum. More space users deploying more satellites, particularly large numbers of NGSO satellites, will put growing pressure on the use of spectrum. The increased number of satellites makes coordination to avoid interference between systems increasingly complex. The complexities of managing interference between NGSO systems could also have implications for competition. In light of these challenges, Ofcom says that it needs to review where best to focus its efforts in the space sector. Ofcom plans to publish its finalised strategy in Q2 2022/23. The consultation ends on 24 May 2022.
Updated checklist for managing an electronic signing process on a corporate or commercial transaction using an online platform published
A group of corporate know-how lawyers (Networking for knowhow) have published a checklist for use when conducting an electronic signing in relation to a corporate or commercial transaction. The checklist has been updated, following the publication of the Industry Working Group’s interim report on electronic execution of documents. The purpose of the checklist is to set out a non-exhaustive list of points to consider when arranging the electronic execution of documents using an online platform. It also provides a framework for the relevant legal advisers to establish the mechanism for the signing to ensure that execution is completed in a manner acceptable to all parties. In line with increasing awareness of advanced electronic signatures (AESs) and qualified electronic signatures (QESs), the checklist includes prompts for additional identity requirements that might be needed if a particular type of e-signature is required.
ASA issues enforcement notice in relation to misleading and irresponsible crypto ads
The ASA has issued an enforcement notice to more than fifty companies which advertise cryptocurrencies, instructing them to review their ads and to ensure they understand and are complying with the rules so that consumers are treated fairly. The enforcement notice provides guidance to the crypto industry on how to stick to the rules and warns that the ASA will monitor for compliance and implement sanctions if it does see improvements. The guidance requires that advertisers should clearly state that cryptocurrencies are unregulated in the UK and that the value of investments are variable and can go down; must not state or imply that investment decisions are trivial, simple, easy or suitable for anyone; and must not imply a sense of urgency to buy or create a fear of missing out, or that investments are “low risk”. The notice applies to ads for cryptocurrencies, crypto exchanges and ads or promotions which otherwise involve the transfer, sale or supply of cryptocurrencies, targeted at UK consumers or that are targeted globally on behalf of UK-based advertisers.
European Commission proposes new cybersecurity rules
The European Commission has proposed new rules to establish common cybersecurity and information security measures across the EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The proposal aims to bolster their resilience and response capacities against cyber threats and incidents, as well as to ensure a resilient, secure EU public administration, amidst rising malicious cyber activities in the global landscape. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing geopolitical challenges, the Commission says that a joint approach to cybersecurity and information security is a must. The Commission has therefore proposed a Cybersecurity Regulation and an Information Security Regulation. By setting common priorities and frameworks, these rules aim to further strengthen inter-institutional cooperation, minimise risk exposure and further strengthen the EU security culture.
Digital Markets Act: EU Parliament and Council agree new rules
The EU Parliament and Council negotiators have agreed new EU rules to limit the market power of big online platforms. The text provisionally agreed targets large companies providing so-called “core platform services” most prone to unfair business practices, such as social networks or search engines, with a market capitalisation of at least 75 billion euro or an annual turnover of 7.5 billion. To be designated as “gatekeepers”, these companies must also provide certain services such as browsers, messengers or social media, which have at least 45 million monthly end users in the EU and 10 000 annual business users. After the legal text is finalised, it will need to be approved by both Parliament and Council. Once this process is completed, it will come into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal and the rules will apply six months after.