New competition rules for digital markets were referenced in the recent King's Speech this week. This is important and long-awaited legislation – setting out the UK’s new digital regulatory regime for the largest tech firms deemed to have “Strategic Market Status”, as well as a number of other significant reforms intended to strengthen the UK’s competition and consumer law regimes. Having been introduced into Parliament only in April, it is no surprise that the Bill has been carried forward into the new session, and a carry-over motion was already agreed back in May.
All eyes are now on whether there will be notable changes to the Bill as it passes through the legislative process, with the timing attracting considerable interest. The current expectation is that the Bill will be passed in spring next year, but many parts of the Bill, including the new digital regulatory regime, will require secondary legislation and new guidance before they can enter into force. It remains to be seen how long that will take.
While the reforms in the digital sector may have caught the most attention, the consumer changes are also potentially very significant, introducing far larger potential penalties for so-called “rip off” companies, and making companies more accountable to consumers in online markets. It will be very interesting to see how the CMA uses these new powers once they come into effect.