Regulatory Outlook

Consumer Law | UK Regulatory Outlook May 2024

Published on 31st May 2024

DMCC Bill receives royal assent | Ofcom launches consultation on protecting children from harms online under UK Online Safety Act | Regulations made naming the 'assessment start day' for VSP compliance with UK Online Safety Act

DMCC Bill receives royal assent

The Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Bill has received royal assent and become law as the Digital Markets Competition and Consumers Act 2024 (DMCCA).

As well as introducing a new digital markets regime and changes to competition law, the new legislation also significantly reforms UK consumer law, introducing new requirements for paid subscription contracts and a new regime for consumer reviews. It also gives more powers to the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate and enforce consumer law (including the new subscription contract regime) with the possibility of imposing significant monetary penalties.

Our Insight explores five key things businesses need to know about the changes to consumer law, as well as five key points on the new digital markets regime and the changes to competition law respectively.  

Ofcom launches consultation on protecting children from harms online under UK Online Safety Act

Ofcom has launched its second major consultation as part of its work to implement the new online safety regime under the Online Safety Act 2023 (OSA). The first consultation focused on the duties of in-scope services to protect users from illegal content. 

This latest consultation focuses on protecting children from legal, but harmful online content. This includes pornography, content relating to suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, content that is abusive and is targeted at or incites hatred against people based on protected characteristics, bullying, and content containing serious violence. The consultation closes on 17 July 2024, and Ofcom expects to publish its final statement and documents in spring 2025.

As part of the consultation, Ofcom published draft guidance for service providers, as well as the codes of practice that it is obliged to prepare to help providers meet their duties:

  • Draft guidance on Children's Access Assessments. This is designed for regulated user-to-user and search services (Part 3 services under the OSA) to assist them with carrying out a children's access assessment to establish whether their service is likely to be accessed by children. Ofcom anticipates that most Part 3 services that are not already using "highly effective" age assurance techniques are likely to be accessed by children, meaning that they will be required to carry out a children's risk assessment and to take steps to comply with the child safety duties under the OSA.
  • Draft guidance on Children's Risk Assessments. This is designed to help services that are likely to be accessed by children comply with their duty to carry out a children's risk assessment, which is separate and additional to the illegal content risk assessment that all services need to complete.
  • Draft code of practice for user-to-user services and draft code of practice for search services. These draft codes outline Ofcom's recommended safety measures for providers of Part 3 services to mitigate the risks of harm to children and comply with specified duties. The recommended measures include robust age assurance measures, safer algorithms, effective content moderation systems and processes, strong governance and accountability, and ensuring that children are given clear and accessible information, as well as easy-to-use reporting and complaints procedures.

Osborne Clarke is holding a seminar on online child safety on 20 June 2024. You can sign up here.

Regulations made naming the 'assessment start day' for VSP compliance with UK Online Safety Act

The Online Safety Act 2023 (Pre-existing Part 4B Services Assessment Start Day) Regulations 2024 specify the "assessment start day" for Video-Sharing Platforms (VSPs) as 2 September 2024.

From this day, or the date that Ofcom publishes the relevant guidance (whichever is the latest), VSPs, known as "pre-existing Part 4B Services" under the OSA, will be subject to the requirement to complete assessments in line with the OSA on the risk of illegal content on their service, the likelihood of children accessing the service, the risk of children encountering harmful content on the service and user empowerment.

VSPs will have three months from the start day (whether that is 2 September 2024 or the day on which Ofcom publishes the relevant guidance) to complete the assessments.

This instrument is the first step towards transitioning services, which are currently regulated under the VSP regulatory regime, to the new online safety regulatory regime created under the OSA.


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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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