Marketing bodies react as government commits to digital reforms

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ISBA and the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) are calling on the government to “listen carefully to businesses” and provide urgent clarity on the digital competition and data protection reforms announced during yesterday’s Queen’s Speech (10 May).

Delivered by Prince Charles in the Queen’s absence, the speech confirmed government plans to create new competition rules for digital markets and the largest digital firms, in an attempt to address the dominance of the likes of Facebook and Google.

Earlier this month, after almost a year of public consultation, the government laid out its plans for this “pro-competition regime”. A Digital Markets Unit (DMU) will be set up within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to lay out conduct requirements for those large digital firms allocated ‘Strategic Market Status’, with the power to impose financial penalties of up to 10% of a firm’s global turnover for regulatory breaches.

The DMU will also be able to apply for civil penalties against named senior managers who fail to ensure these firms comply with requests for information and to have individuals disqualified from holding directorship roles in the UK.

A joint statement from Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Secretary Nadine Dorries and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Evidence shows a lack of competition is degrading the quality of people’s experiences online, putting at risk the viability of companies dependent on dominant firms and holding back innovation across the digital economy.

“It is clear from the response we received that boosting competition in digital markets is a vital tool in realizing our vision for the economy.”

The speech also reaffirmed the government’s commitment to reform the UK’s data protection regime, which has been in line with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) since its introduction in May 2018.GDPR: What might the government’s overhaul mean for marketers?

First announced in September, the government aims to use the power of data to drive growth while maintaining “high” data protection standards. Then-digital secretary Oliver Dowden said this would require “reforming” the UK’s data laws so they are based on “common sense, not box-ticking”, and ditching the “endless” cookie pop-ups on websites.

In response to the speech, ISBA director general Phil Smith notes the “enormous change” it heralds for the advertising sector, with alterations to both the UK’s data regime and measures on digital competition having “far-reaching consequences”.

When seen alongside the continuation of the Online Safety Bill and the progress of the Online Advertising Program, advertisers are “facing government action on multiple fronts which will shape our industry for years to come,” according to the ISBA director general.

“We call on ministers to listen carefully to businesses and trade bodies, so that these reforms are fit for the future,” Smith adds.

Meanwhile, the DMA “welcomes” the overall inclusion of reform to UK data protection laws, but criticizes the lack of clarity over specific measures. The organization is therefore calling for urgent clarity from the DCMS on what text the data reform bill will contain.

DMA CEO Chris Combemale says: “The data, marketing and creative industries remain in limbo, unsure of what form the UK’s data protection reforms will take.”

He adds that data-driven innovation can still deliver further growth across the digital economy “without compromising the UK’s data adequacy status or current privacy protections”, but the government must move forward “urgently” and publish the results of the ‘Data: A new direction ‘consultation.

“Our industry welcomed many of the proposals put forward in the consultation that have a direct impact on building successful customer relationships and public trust, primarily through further legislative clarity and industry transparency,” Combemale concludes.

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