The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) today set out its priorities for the coming year, marking a gradual change in the coordination of regulation between digital and online services.

The Competition and Market Authority (CMA), the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) and the Office for Communication (Ofcom) founded the DRCF in July 2020. Building on the close working relationships between these organizations, the forum was established to ensure a higher level of collaboration in the face of the unique challenges posed by the regulation of online platforms.

Online services are playing an increasingly central role in our lives, and the digital landscape is developing rapidly. There is a need for a more coherent, coordinated and clearer approach to regulation – for the benefit of internet users and the companies that serve them.

Today’s DRCF work plan for 2021/22 provides a roadmap for how Ofcom, the CMA and the ICO will significantly expand the scope and scope of their collaboration. This includes pooling expertise and resources, working more closely on online regulatory issues of mutual concern, and reporting results annually.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was an observer member of the DRCF from the beginning and will also become a full member from April 2021.

Cooperation, coordination and a coherent regulatory approach

Since the DRCF was founded, there have been several important developments that have required regulatory attention in the emerging digital and online landscape.

For example, the UK government confirmed that Ofcom will monitor and enforce a new online damage due diligence system. The UK government also announced that a Digital Markets Unit (DMU) will be set up within the CMA to oversee the new anti-competitive regime. In addition, the ICO’s new age-appropriate design code will come into effect this year.

To effectively prepare for these new challenges, our work plan sets out how through the DRCF we will coordinate our regulatory approach in the coming year, focusing on three priority areas:

  • Strategic response to industrial and technological developments

We will start joint projects on complex, overarching topics. The CMA has already published new research on algorithms showing how they can reduce competition in digital markets and harm consumers if misused. This research and any feedback on it will influence the future work of the DRCF. Other projects include research into service design frameworks; artificial intelligence; digital advertising technologies and end-to-end encryption.

Together, we will create a broader view of industry trends and new innovations in digital technology to understand the common regulatory implications.

  • Development of common regulatory approaches

The nature of digital services means that different regulatory systems interlink and overlap. In this case, we will develop approaches to ensure a coherent regulatory approach.

This year, the focus is on the relationship between data protection and competition regulation, as well as age-appropriate design code and the regulation of video-sharing platforms and online damage.

  • Building common skills and abilities

We will work together to develop our collective technical and analytical skills. We will examine operating models to support a more efficient exchange of skills and expertise in the future. This can include, for example, building cross-regulatory teams of specialists.

We will continue to work closely with other regulators who are responsible for the digital markets and who share some of the challenges set out in our work plan.

Next Steps

We ask for comments and discussions on the work plan and the priorities of the DRCF for the coming year. These should be sent to [email protected].

Looking ahead, additional measures may be needed to further strengthen digital regulatory cooperation. We are working with the UK government on how this can be achieved.

Dame Melanie Dawes, General Manager of Ofcom said:

Online services are fundamental to interacting with the world around us. And we want to make sure that people can continue to enjoy the many benefits of these innovative platforms and technologies while being sure that they are protected from potential harm and risk.

As we stand ready to take on new roles in regulating online security, today’s action plan sets out how through the DRCF we will strengthen our relationships with the CMA and the ICO. Together we will take a coherent approach to online regulation – for the benefit of internet users and the companies that serve them.

Andrea Coscelli, CEO of CMA, said:

Technology plays an important role in all of our daily routines, whether by helping us at work, enabling us to keep in touch with loved ones, or to get a bargain online. We understand that the actions we and other regulators are taking in the digital marketplace have a real impact on people’s lives.

So now, more than ever, we need to work closely with other agencies at home and abroad to address these issues together, and work with high performing technology firms to proactively shape their behavior.

Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner, said:

Effective regulation supports digital innovation and economic development. It gives people the confidence and confidence to support innovation, safe in the knowledge that there are checks and balances to protect them.

We will work closely with the CMA and Ofcom through the DRCF. Our work plan is a roadmap for pragmatic, practical solutions to the challenges that arise from our increasingly digital world. Practical collaboration between regulators will lead to better results for businesses and individuals.

Notes for editors

  1. DRCF start documents: Ofcom DRCF start document, CMA DRCF start document, ICO blog on the DRCF start.

  2. We intend to work closely with other national and international regulatory authorities as necessary.

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