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.”
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.
The following post was originally included as part of our recently published memorandum “Selected Issues for Boards of Directors in 2024”.
Antitrust in 2023 was marked by a series of policy developments—some still nascent, some ripe for enforcement for the first time. In the U.S., the FTC and DOJ finalized their drastically transformed merger guidelines. In the EU, landmark new digital regulations became applicable for the first time. And the UK government introduced a bill promising major new digital and consumer protection rules.
In a unanimous judgment, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales (CoA) reaffirmed the Competition and Market Authority’s (CMA) power to require overseas companies with no branches in the UK to produce documents and information when investigating suspected anticompetitive conduct. The CoA considered that not allowing the CMA to obtain information from overseas companies would create a “gaping lacuna” in the CMA’s ability to perform its statutory duties.
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”. The trends focus on areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), interoperability, and privacy.
On 24 November 2023, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published a Call for Input on the potential competition impacts arising from the data asymmetry between Big Tech firms and firms in financial services. The Call for Input follows the FCA’s October 2022 Discussion Paper regarding the potential competition impacts of Big Tech entry and expansion in retail financial services, and its July 2023 Feedback Statement summarising the responses to the Discussion Paper. 
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 Tuesday 19 September, the House of Lords approved the Online Safety Bill (the OSB). This marks the end of the OSB’s passage through the legislative process, and after six years of heated debate, it is now set to become law.