The Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers (DMCC) Act, which passed on 23 May 2024, will introduce significant reforms to UK competition and consumer protection law and digital regulation (see our update summarising the main changes). In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the Act’s overhaul of the UK consumer protection regime.

UK Becomes Fourth Jurisdiction to Introduce Dedicated Digital Platform Regulation, with More Jurisdictions Likely to Follow

On 23 May, the UK Parliament passed the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers (DMCC) Bill.  The new DMCC Act will bring about some of the most significant reforms to competition and consumer protection law in the UK in decades. Among other major reforms, it introduces a dedicated regime that provides for specific conduct rules for large digital platforms. The UK therefore becomes the fourth jurisdictionafter the EU with its Digital Market Act (DMA), Germany with its s.19A rules, and Japan with its new smartphone bill (also passed on 23 May)to introduce rules that target a handful of the largest digital firms.[1]

On April 18, 2024, the Court of Justice delivered its judgement on the questions referred to it by the Prague Municipal Court in the Heureka v. Google case.[1]  Heureka Group (“Heureka”), a Czech comparison shopping service company (“CSS”) brought an action before the Municipal Court of Prague in the Czech Republic, seeking compensation from Google for the harm it allegedly suffered as a result of Google’s abusive behavior as part of the Google Shopping decision.  The referring court sought clarification about whether Article 10 of Directive 2014/104 (the “Damages Directive”) [2] and/or Article 102 TFEU[3] preclude the effects of a national law that requires parties seeking compensation for competition infringements to file suit within three years of the occurrence of the harm.  The Court of Justice ruled that Article 102 TFEU and the principle of effectiveness require the suspension of limitation periods during the Commission’s investigation.  The limitation period will only start running when the injured party knows the information necessary to bring its claim, which is presumed to be as of the date of the publication of the summary of the Commission’s infringement decision in the Official Journal of the EU.  Additionally, the injured party, Heureka in this instance, can then rely on the findings of a  Commission decision under appeal, as it is binding in nature, unless and until it has been annulled.  

On April 17, 2024, the former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, published a report outlining the future of the EU’s single market (the “Report”).[1]  Letta proposed significant reforms, including the addition of a fifth freedom to spur innovation, consolidation in key sectors to enhance global competitiveness, and a new framework for State aid governance.

On 27 March 2024, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that fashion retailers ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda (the Retailers) has signed undertakings to ensure that the environmental claims they make are accurate and clear (the Undertakings).  The announcement was accompanied by an open letter to the fashion retail sector (the Letter).  The  Letter warns businesses to act in accordance with the CMA’s 2021 Green Claims Code and to take note of the Undertakings, or risk incurring significant monetary penalties once the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill comes into force (see our previous blog posts here, here and here).  The CMA also indicated that it will be updating the Green Claims Code with specific guidance for the fashion sector.  

In the latest instalment of the Cleary Gottlieb Antitrust Review podcast, host Nick Levy is joined by Saverio Valentino, Board member of the Italian Antitrust Authority. The conversation covers Saverio’s first year in the role, the agency’s current priorities, merger control and FDI regulation, cartel enforcement, rights of defence, judicial review, and much more.

On March 4, 2024, the Commission fined Apple €1.8 billion—its first ever antitrust fine imposed on Apple and third largest ever—for abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps to iPhone and iPad users (“iOS users”) through its App Store (“Decision”).[1]

On February 27, 2024, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) published its roadmap for 2024-2025 as every year,[1] outlining its enforcement priorities for the year ahead.  The FCA emphasized the need to take action in the same key areas of interest as in 2023[2]: (i) the digital economy, (ii) sustainability and the ecological transition, and (iii) the protection of purchasing power. 

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]