July 14, 2023
The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (DMCC Bill) has now completed its Committee stage in the House of Commons.
Some amendments were made to the DMCC Bill, which has been reprinted in advance of the next legislative stage (see further below for next steps).
Below, we pick out some of the key points to note from the consumer law enforcement perspective.
The changes made at Committee stage include a subtle, but significant, change to the definition of “commercial practice” for the purposes of the new enforcement regime.
In the first iteration of the DMCC Bill, a commercial practice was defined as “the promotion or supply of:
(a) the trader’s goods, services or digital content to a consumer,
(b) another trader’s goods, services or digital content to a consumer, or
(c) a consumer’s goods, services or digital content to the trader or another trader”
The change agreed at Committee stage amends c) to read:
(c) “a consumer’s goods, services or digital content to the trader or another trader person”
If enacted, this is particularly relevant for marketplaces that enable consumer-to-consumer sales, as it brings these platforms squarely within the remit of the new, powerful DMCC enforcement regime and dispels any doubt about whether consumer-to-consumer platforms might escape regulation on the basis that they do not fit the more typical business-to-consumer model.
Relevant proposals rejected during the Committee stage include requiring marketplaces to take steps to ensure products they sell meet product safety requirements and to check whether products have not been subject to a recall. The Government has said that these issues will be addressed as part of its product safety review which will take place “very shortly”.
Specifically adding so-called ‘greenwashing’ to the list of expressly banned commercial practices was rejected on the grounds that this can be (and indeed, is already being) dealt with as a misleading practice under the existing consumer protection regime.
Fake reviews & drip pricing
The Government resisted attempts to specifically address fake reviews in the DMCC Bill now, reiterating that it will consult on this issue during the passage of the DMCC Bill (in the autumn) and add to the list of banned practices when it has done so.
Similarly, Government will consult on so-called ‘drip pricing’ (a pricing technique in which businesses advertise only part of a product’s price and reveal other charges later as the customer goes through the buying process) and will then decide whether the practice merits further action.
Next steps & timings
The DMCC Bill will now move to the Report stage in the House of Commons, where the amended version will be debated and, potentially, further amendments proposed.
The date for the Report stage has yet to be announced, but the House of Commons has agreed a’ ‘Carry-over Motion’ which will enable progress to be resumed in the next session of Parliament (due to start on 4 September 2023) without having to start from scratch – this is an important step in maintaining momentum as we approach enactment.
Keep up to date with all the latest news and commentary on the DMCC Bill by bookmarking our DMCC tracker page.