Three UK regulators outline their joint approach to digital regulation

News

The Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) has published its first annual plan of work.

The Forum was set up by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the Office of Communications (Ofcom) in July 2020.

The idea is to ensure a greater level of cooperation between the bodies, given the challenges posed by the regulation of online platforms in which they all have a role.

Scale and scope

Today’s DRCF workplan for 2021/2022 sets out how the three will greatly increase the scope and scale of their cooperation. 

This will involve pooling expertise and resources, working more closely on online regulatory matters of mutual importance, and reporting on results annually.  

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been an observer member of the DRCF since the outset and will also join as a full member from April 2021.

Upcoming issues

The UK Government confirmed that Ofcom will oversee and enforce a new duty of care “for online harms” and that the CMA is to set up a Digital Markets Unit (DMU) to oversee its new pro-competition regime.

This year will also see ICO’s new Age-Appropriate Design Code will come into effect.  

Three priorities

The DRCF will coordinate the UK’s regulatory approach, focusing on three areas: 

• Responding strategically to industry and technological developments through joint projects. The CMA has published new research on algorithms, showing they can reduce competition in digital markets and harm consumers if they are misused. This research and feedback on it will inform the future work of the DRCF.  Other projects will include research into service design frameworks; AI; digital advertising technologies and end-to-end encryption. The idea is to build a more comprehensive view of industry trends and innovations in digital technology to understand the shared implications for regulation. 

• Developing joined-up regulatory approaches where responsibilities of the regulators interlink and overlap. The initial focus in 2020-21 will be the interrelation between data protection and competition regulation, and the Age-Appropriate Design Code and the regulation of video-sharing platforms and online harms.  

• Building shared skills and capabilities, and exploring operational models to make the most of them, such as by building cross-regulator specialist teams. The DCRF will also work closely with other engage regulatory authorities with responsibilities for digital markets, that share some of the challenges set out in the plan of work.

Join the discussion

Ofcom is inviting comments and discussion on the DRCF’s plan of work and priorities for the year ahead that should be submitted to DRCF@ofcom.org.uk.  

Elizabeth Denham, UK Information Commissioner, noted, "Effective regulation supports digital innovation and economic development. It gives people trust and confidence to support innovation, safe in the knowledge there are checks and balances in place to protect them.