Consumer Law | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

Update on the UK DMCC Bill | CMA consults on proposal to launch a market investigation of the UK vet sector | Delegated act on independent audits under the DSA enters into force...
UK Consumer Protection
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Update on the UK DMCC Bill | CMA consults on proposal to launch a market investigation of the UK vet sector | Delegated act on independent audits under the DSA enters into force

Update on the UK DMCC Bill

The UK Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (DMCC Bill) has completed the report stage in the House of Lords. A new version has been published which incorporates various consumer law-related amendments.

The Lords agreed to add various activities relating to the submission, commission or publication of fake reviews to the list of banned commercial practices in Schedule 19 of the bill. They also changed the way in which a trader must enable a consumer to bring a subscription contract to an end so that it does not have to be done "in a single communication", but "in a way which is straightforward". With this change, the Lords are aiming to set a general principle for traders to abide by in this area.

The Lords also agreed that Parliament ought to be able to make secondary regulations to provide that a consumer may lose the right to cancel a subscription contract during a cooling-off period and would not be entitled to a refund of any payments made if they chose to receive digital content or services during that cooling-off period.

The Lords discussed reminder notices and whether traders should be able to provide marketing and promotional information at the same time. No changes were agreed, but the government said that it would bring forward amendments at third reading to "strike the right balance" in this area.

To reduce fraud, the Lords also agreed amendments to impose requirements on secondary ticket sites (to obtain proof of purchase or evidence of title to tickets to be resold) before allowing a trader to be listed on the site. They would also not be allowed to let a reseller sell more tickets to an event than they can legally purchase from the primary market.

The third reading of the DMCC Bill in the House of Lords took place on 26 March 2024. It will now return to the House of Commons for consideration of the Lords' amendments, which may or may not be accepted. It is still expected to receive Royal Assent in April 2024.

CMA consults on proposal to launch a market investigation of the UK vet sector

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a consultation on its proposal to make a market investigation reference following its initial review into the veterinary sector in relation to household pets in the UK, following its initial review into the veterinary sector in relation to household pets in the UK. See this Regulatory Outlook for background.

Based on its initial review, the CMA has identified five key areas of concern that might merit further investigation:

  • a lack of information available to consumers to enable them to choose the best vet practice or the right treatment for their needs (for example, the CMA finds that most vet practices have no pricing information on their website);
  • market concentration which could lead to competition concerns in some areas (for example, the CMA notes that almost 60% of vet practices are owned by corporate groups);
  • large integrated groups may concentrate on providing more complicated and expensive treatments, making it difficult for consumers to access simpler, lower cost treatments;
  • concerns that pet owners might be overpaying for medicines or prescriptions; and
  • the outdated regulatory framework which may no longer be fit for purpose.

The CMA is seeking views on whether it should now launch a market investigation. The consultation closes on 11 April 2024.

Delegated act on independent audits under the DSA enters into force

On 22 February 2024, the delegated regulation on independent audits under the EU Digital Services Act (DSA) entered into force.

Article 37 of the DSA requires providers of very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online search engines (VLOSEs) to undergo annual independent audits to assess compliance with the DSA and any commitments made pursuant to codes of conduct and crisis protocols that they might have adopted.

The delegated regulation provides a framework to guide VLOPs and VLOSEs when preparing audits. It also provides mandatory templates for auditors to use when completing an audit report, as well as mandatory templates for the VLOPs and VLOSEs to use when completing their audit implementation reports.

EU directive to empower consumers for the green transition published in the Official Journal of the EU

See Advertising and Marketing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Consumer Law | UK Regulatory Outlook March 2024

UK Consumer Protection

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