This Week's Techlaw Round-up

CLLS and Law Society publish updated note on execution using electronic signatures, Ofcom launches consultation on NIS guidance for operators of essential services, Ofcom consults on removing fax from the universal service obligations on BT and KCOM, and more in this week’s round-up of UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.

UK law

CLLS and Law Society publish updated note on execution using electronic signatures

A joint working party of the City of London Law Society and the Law Society of England and Wales Company Law & Financial Law Committees has published an updated note on the execution of a document using an electronic signature. The note was originally published in 2016 by the working party to help parties to a transaction, and their legal advisers, who wish to execute contracts using an electronic signature. The note has been updated to reflect developments since 2016 including the more widespread use of e-signing platforms and changes to the legislative framework.

Ofcom launches consultation on NIS guidance for operators and essential services

Ofcom is consulting on proposed changes to the Network and Information Systems guidance for Operators of Essential Services (OES). The NIS Guidance sets out how Ofcom would normally expect to approach its functions under the NIS Regulations and how to OES will fulfil their duties in ensuring the security of their network and information systems. The consultation focuses on matters to which OES must have regard in complying with their security duties and duties to notify NIS incidents to Ofcom, including the process, format and thresholds for their reporting, imposed on OES under the NIS Regulations, Ofcom has set its expectations on how an OES should report incidents following its proposed changes to incident reporting thresholds. The consultation ends on 13 January 2023. Ofcom plans to issue its final statement and guidance in Spring 2023.

Ofcom consults on removing fax from the universal service obligations on BT and KCOM

The telephony universal service (USO) obligation ensures that a minimum set of telephony services are available at an affordable price to people across the UK. BT and KCOM are the designated universal service providers in the UK, and Ofcom's current USO riles require them to provide fax services. The scope of the USO is set by the UK government through legislation and, until recently, it had required that fax services be provided throughout the UK as a universal service. Parliament has recently removed fax services from the USO legislation, following a consultation of Ofcom in November 2021. This amendment was made in light of the migration of telephony networks to internet protocol technology, which means that fax services will no longer work in the same way after the move to IP networks. It also reflects that use of fax services will no longer work in the same way after the move to IP networks. It also reflects that use of fax services in the UK is now very limited, and there are a range of free, or low-cost, alternatives available. Ofcom proposes to amend its rules to remove the requirement for BT and KCOM to provide fax services under the ISO. This will mean that Ofcom rules reflect the requirements in the universal service legislation and are not unduly burdensome. The consultation ends on 1 December 2022. Ofcom expects to publish a statement in early 2023.

ICO and Cabinet Office reach agreement on New Year Honours data breach fine

The ICO has agreed to reduce the £500,000 Monetary Penalty Notice imposed on the Cabinet Office in 2021 in relation to the New Year Honours data breach to £50,000, which the Cabinet Office has agreed to pay. The ICO says that this reflects its new approach to working more effectively with public authorities. The ICO issued its fine to the Cabinet Office on 15 November 2021, following an investigation into the 2019 data breach, where the Cabinet Office published a file on GOV.UK containing the names and unredacted addresses of more than 1,000 people announced in the New Year Honours list. The personal data was available online for a period of two hours and 21 minutes and it was accessed 3,872 times. The Cabinet Office appealed against the amount of the fine to the First-tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber) in December 2021, alleging the level of penalty was "wholly disproportionate". The appeal related solely to the amount of the fine and the facts leading up to the imposition of the penalty were not in dispute. Under the agreement reached between the parties, which has been approved by the Tribunal, the ICO has agreed to a reduction in the amount of the fine to £50,000. Otherwise, the Cabinet Office's appeal before the Tribunal is dismissed and the hearing listed before the Tribunal on 4 November has been vacated.

International law

OECD publishes a report on dark patterns

The OECD has published a report on dark patterns. As SCL has reported before, there is mounting concern that dark commercial patterns may cause substantial consumer detriment. These practices, which are commonly found in online user interfaces, steer, deceive, coerce, or manipulate consumers into making choices that often are not in their best interests. Considering the growing need to address dark commercial patterns comprehensively, the OECD Committee on Consumer Policy first held a roundtable on the topic in November 2020. The latest report builds on the roundtable discussion, in particular by proposing a working definition of dark commercial patterns, setting out evidence of their prevalence and harms, and identifying possible policy and enforcement responses to assist consumer policy makers and authorities in addressing them. It also documents possible approaches consumers and businesses may take to mitigate dark commercial patterns.

Published: 2022-11-04T09:43:00

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