On 14 September 2017 Ofcom, the UK communications industry regulator, adopted new statutory guidelines (“Penalty Guidelines“) on how it would assess and determine the penalties (fines) payable by regulated communications companies who breach their obligations under the Communications Act 2003 (“Act”). The revised guidelines follow Ofcom’s June 2017 adoption of new guidelines for enforcement in regulatory investigations (“Enforcement Guidelines“) and procedures for investigating breaches of competition related conditions in Broadcasting Act licences (“Broadcasting Investigation Procedures“).

Although on their face the changes to the guidelines seem relatively minor, when considered against the background of (i) Ofcom’s increasingly pro-active enforcement policy; and (ii) the increased difficulty of challenging Ofcom’s decisions, following the 20 July 2017 change in the standard of review of decisions on appeal from an ‘on the merits‘ review to ‘judicial review principles‘, we expect the changes to make it easier for Ofcom to take action against regulated communications companies and more difficult for those companies to defend and appeal Ofcom’s decisions. As a net result, regulated communications companies need to take Ofcom enforcement action more seriously. Those companies are now financially incentivised to engage early with Ofcom and consider early settlement to secure a settlement discount, especially as they will find it more difficult to challenge Ofcom’s decisions on appeal. Continue Reading What is the impact of the new Ofcom penalty guidelines?

With holiday season upon us, earlier this week Matt Hancock, the UK Government’s Digital Minister, announced proposals for a new UK data protection law. Previously covered on this blog here and here, little new of substance was announced, but in a slow news week, the announcement garnered significant UK media coverage and attention.  Continue Reading UK’s Digital Minister announces changes to UK data protection law

Ofcom published its annual Communications Market Report this week. This report provides a reference for industry, stakeholders and consumers across the sectors Ofcom regulates.  A handy bite-size version of the report is available here.

What has the 2017 report revealed? Continue Reading A nation of binge-watchers: Ofcom reveals the UK’s TV and online habits in its annual report

Following the Government’s decision to include a revised data protection law in the Queen’s Speech last month, the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee reviewed the potential implications on national security, stability and public safety of the UK exiting the European Union without an agreement to ensure there is unhindered data flow between the two sides. The Committee issued a stark warning that it was “struck by the lack of detail” on how the Government would ensure that the UK data protection regime continues to allow data transfer with the European Union in a post-Brexit world.

Continue Reading UK Data protection post-Brexit: a “cliff-edge”?

On 11 July 2017, Ofcom announced that it would be auctioning (i) 40 MHz of spectrum in the 2.3 GHz band; and (ii) 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.4 GHz band in the UK in late 2017. Ofcom has decided to impose spectrum caps to, in Ofcom’s words, ‘safeguard competition‘. It remains to be seen whether any of the market participants challenge Ofcom’s decision on spectrum caps. Ofcom also published an Information Memorandum for prospective bidders and issued a consultation on the auction regulations. The consultation closes on 14 August 2017. Whilst the 2.3 GHz spectrum can be used for current LTE (4G) services, the 3.4 Ghz spectrum is expected to support faster next generation mobile (5G) services. Continue Reading UK to auction 2.3 and 3.4 GHz spectrum in 2017

A revised data protection law forms part of the new government’s legislative agenda for the UK. Key points in the Queen’s Speech on 21 June 2017 were that a new UK Data Protection Bill (the Bill) will replace the current Data Protection Act 1998; the new Bill will implement the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the UK (a fact that the party manifestos were silent on before the election); and the government intends to put the UK in the best position to maintain data sharing across the EU and internationally. These points remained unchallenged in the subsequent parliamentary debates, and the government’s express intention to implement the GDPR through national law in the UK was welcomed by many businesses. Continue Reading Proposal for a new UK Data Protection law

Following the result of the UK general election, the upcoming Brexit negotiations, which were due to start in over a week’s time, have now been thrown into doubt. Nevertheless, businesses are still analysing the impact that Brexit will have on both existing and future commercial contracts. This has led to businesses now exploring the possibility of incorporating a “Brexit clause” when negotiating a new contract or amending an existing contract that allows parties to renegotiate terms in the event of a defined Brexit-related event (i.e. the date of the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU). Continue Reading Back to the business of Brexit – what’s a “Brexit clause”?

On 10 May 2017, the European Commission published its mid-term review of the implementation of Europe’s Digital Single Market strategy. Launched in 2015, the ambitious strategy covered 16 actions under the three pillars: (1) improving access to digital goods and services for consumers and businesses across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy. Despite a lot of activity, the Commission was only able to highlight one actual delivered improvement in its review – the abolition of retail roaming charges – although it looks forward to the imminent implementation of cross-border content portability in early 2018 and the expected approval of a proposal to address unjustified geo-blocking.

Continue Reading European Digital Single Market strategy mid-term review: What happens next?

On 27 April 2017, the UK’s new Digital Economy Act came into force. Following the calling of a snap General Election for 8 June, it was brought into force during the final parliamentary wash-up. Whilst some proposals were withdrawn or watered down, a number of important provisions, notably reform of the UK’s electronic communications code which governs the relationship between telecoms operators and landowners, were brought into force without significant amendment.

Continue Reading UK’s Digital Economy Act comes into force reforming telecoms operators’ rights to access land and buildings

In January 2017, the European Commission published the proposed text of a new draft e-Privacy Regulation (ePR) as part of its ongoing drive to advance one of its key initiatives, the Digital Single Market.

Whilst the impending introduction of the GDPR has been dominating headlines for the past months, the ePR has somewhat gone under the radar. We set out the key points to look out for with regard to the ePR and who it is likely to apply to.

Continue Reading The ePrivacy Regulation: what you need to know