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 21 May 2024, the UK Government published updated guidance on the application of the National Security and Investment Act (NSIA).  This includes:

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) declared victory as the High Court confirmed the standard of evidence needed to secure warrants to search domestic premises.  The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) had refused to grant a domestic search warrant to the CMA in connection with a cartel investigation.  It held in a judgment of October 2023 (the CAT Judgment) that a “higher order of scrutiny” [1] was required for domestic warrants than for business premises warrants, in order to protect individuals’ rights to a private and family life under Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has adopted a revised phase 2 investigation process and published updated Guidance on the CMA’s Jurisdiction and Procedure and Exceptions to the Duty to Refer.  The changes come after a period of extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement.  The new rules will apply to all investigations formally opened on or after 25 April 2024 that are subsequently referred to phase 2.

On 11 April 2024, the CMA published an update paper (the Update Paper) in relation to its initial review of AI Foundation Models (FMs).  An accompanying technical update report (the Technical Update Report) was published on 16 April 2024, providing further detail on market developments and feedback from stakeholder engagement.  These updates follow the CMA’s September 2023 initial report into the same topic (the Initial Report).

On 22 April 2024, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a Feedback Statement on the potential competition impacts from data asymmetry between Big Tech firms and firms in financial services. On the same day, Nikhil Rathi, the FCA’s Chief Executive, delivered a speech at the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum on ‘Navigating the UK’s Digital Regulation Landscape’.

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.  

On 25 January 2024, the Microeconomics Unit[1] of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a report examining competition and market power in UK labour markets (the Report).  The Report is the Unit’s first published work, covering developments in the labour markets over the last two decades.  Over this period, labour markets have changed significantly through the rise of flexible working and the gig economy (defined as labour services contracted through digital platforms), changes in restrictive covenants (contract clauses that restrict what workers can do after they leave their current employer), and shifts in pay-setting policies.  Each of these factors has the potential to impact employer market power.[2]