Expert Insights

Expert Insights

What does the digital economy bill mean for your digital strategy?

The Digital Economy Bill (“DEB”) is currently going through the legislative process with the Government and is expected to receive Royal Assent in the Spring. It may, however be months before the various components of the DEB, including the Direct Marketing Code (a key requirement of the DEB), are adopted. The main aim of the DEB is to improve both protections and internet connectivity for internet users. The measures introduced seek to modernise Britain’s digital landscape and ensure that Britain is ready for the ever-expanding digital economy. There are some key matters within the DEB that businesses should consider as they evolve their digital strategy and consider, for example, their approach to omnichannel.

According to its proponents the DEB will:

  • provide better internet connectivity so that consumers across Britain have access to effective broadband wherever they live;
  • enhance the current infrastructure to ensure Britain is equipped for the digital future;
  • use digital technologies to enable better public services;
  • ensure that protections are in place for Britons against spam emails and nuisance calls.

What does this mean for your business?

Some of the matters brought in by the DEB will directly effect digital growth strategies and the use of personal data by businesses. In particular we draw your attention to the following matters:

  • Broadband connections and services are now included in the universal services requirements under the Communications Act 2003 meaning that broadband must be available to all citizens. It is expected that citizens will have a right to request a minimum 10Mbps broadband connection. Increased and better access to broadband will add to the digital customer database of all businesses. People without easy access to shops and services may use the internet even more for their day to day needs.

  • The criminal penalty for online copyright infringement is being raised from imprisonment for two years to imprisonment for ten years. This additional adherent may give protection to businesses who fall victim of copyright infringement but also highlights the need for clear staff training on what materials are acceptable for publishing on websites and social media.

  • The Information Commissioners’ Direct Marketing Code (“DMC”) is to be put on a statutory footing. The DMC will impose obligations on those involved in direct marketing to have regard for the rules and will make it simpler for the ICO to prosecute those who do not comply with relevant legislation. The idea is to protect consumers from spam emails and nuisance calls but again highlights the need for businesses to ensure that all relevant staff are aware of the rules around direct marketing. It is not clear at the moment how the potential overlaps between the DEB and e-Privacy Directive will be managed.

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