The Digital Economy Bill passed into UK law last Thursday 27 April 2017 amidst the flurry of activity known as the “wash up” period before the dissolution of Parliament and ahead of the early general election in the UK to be held on 8 June. The Digital Economy Act introduces measures to “modernise the UK for enterprise,” and includes plans for public sector data sharing, direct marketing and age verification for online pornography, amongst other measures. An overview of these measures is set forth in this post.
As most of the measures rely on further codes of practice that are yet to be published, the privacy implications of the Act are not yet clear. However, data protection practitioners are likely to welcome the forthcoming statutory code of practice on direct marketing, and it is expected that there will be significant privacy implications in relation to the public sector data sharing regime and the age verification measures for online pornography providers.
The key measures introduced by the Act include:
- Direct marketing. Requires the UK’s Information Commissioner (ICO) to introduce a statutory code of practice on direct marketing which will be admissible in evidence in court proceedings and have greater weight than the ICO’s guidance on direct marketing.
- Public sector data sharing. Allows data sharing between public sector bodies for various purposes, for example, for the purposes of reducing debt owed to the public sector, fraud prevention and research to be regulated by codes of practice that have yet to be published.
- Age verification for online pornography providers. Requires online pornography providers to implement age-verification measures to be enforced by an age-verification regulator (not yet designated) that will publish guidance about the measures that should be implemented.
- Access to broadband and telecoms services. Provides for a broadband universal service obligation giving people the legal right to request a connection above a speed of a certain level. Also requires better information to be provided to consumers and businesses about telecoms services, easier switching and automatic compensation.
- Installation and maintenance of telecoms infrastructure. Introduces plans for a new Electronic Communications Code to lower the costs for installing and maintaining telecoms infrastructure.
Further provisions in the Act give the UK Government new powers to tackle the use of “bots” in the online secondary ticketing market; extends the public lending right to cover e-books; and requires that on-demand television is accessible to people with disabilities.