On 24 January 2024, the Department for Business and Trade announced that fake reviews and unavoidable hidden or “dripped” charges will be added to the list of banned practices under consumer law in the UK.  The amendments are intended “to ensure customers can compare purchases with ease, aren’t duped by fake reviews, and have the sting of hidden fees taken away.”[1]

On 11 January 2024, the CMA published an overview of its “provisional approach to implement the new Digital Markets competition regime” (Overview), the new regulatory powers the CMA is set to take on once the Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill (DMCC) passes through Parliament (see earlier posts here and here). The CMA published this Overview in response to the UK government’s request on 4 January that CMA publish a “high-level plan” for implementing the digital markets competition regime.[1]  

On 14 December 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its first horizon scanning report examining ten trends in digital markets that the CMA expects will be relevant over the next five years and beyond.

The report aims to “draw on available evidence to discuss and present possible future developments and potential implications for competition and consumers”.[1]  The trends focus on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), interoperability, and privacy.

On 16 November 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued a warning to Wowcher, calling on the e-commerce site to change its online sales practices and in particular its “urgency claims” that risk misleading consumers.  Wowcher has an opportunity to respond and offer undertakings to change its practices and avoid potential court action.

On 20 November 2023, the Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill (DMCC) cleared the report stage and an expedited third reading in the House of Commons, at which a series of significant amendments were passed. 

On 9 August 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) published a joint position paper on online choice architecture (OCA), titled “Harmful design in digital markets: How Online Choice Architecture practices can undermine consumer choice and control over personal information”.  The paper forms part of the agencies’ work under the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum, which brings together multiple UK regulatory bodies to advance their combined thinking on regulatory issues in the digital economy.

The explosion in the development of generative AI has been referred to as an “Oppenheimer” moment.  Just last week, a group of more than 350 executives and scientists jointly stated that “[m]itigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”  And more than 1,000 tech leaders have called for a moratorium on AI development until regulations governing its safe use are devised. 

The UK Government has published its long-awaited Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, including a wide-ranging and far-reaching set of reforms to UK competition and consumer law, along with a new regulatory regime for digital markets.

In September 2022, the General Court partially annulled the European Commission’s 2018 Google Android decision, which fined Google €4.3 billion for abuses of dominance relating to apps it offers for its Android mobile operating system (“OS”).[1]  The Court also found that the Commission’s investigation suffered from procedural errors.  It reduced the fine by €200 million.

Introduction

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently published a Discussion Paper and accompanying Evidence Review on “Online Choice Architecture” (OCA). This provides a helpful overview of the CMA’s approach to analysing choice architecture, recognising that some practices are likely to be harmful to consumers but others may be beneficial.