THE DIGITAL ECONOMY ACT 2017 – In Case You Missed It

We all know that the GDPR will come in to force in the next few months, but a connected piece of legislation passed and brought into law last year is the Digital Economy Act 2017 and many people seemed to have missed it. The DEA provides, amongst other things, an overhaul of direct marketing codes of practice (ahead of GDPR’s enactment), sets new rules on data sharing and new offences for online copyright infringement (but more about that in a future post).

What Does The DEA Do?

The aim of the DEA is to modernise rules governing the UK digital economy; these include setting parameters for sharing ‘pertinent information’ across government and state based organisations, to guarantee ‘universal access’ to broadband speeds of a minimum10Mbits/sec and set a new framework for direct marketing communications.

A New Direct Marketing Code

The DEA required the Information Commissioner to prepare a new Direct Marketing Code giving practical guidance to marketing companies and promoting overall good practice – a wider remit than previously  introducing a higher threshold than industry standard or common practice alone. The new Direct Marketing Code clearly defines what direct marketing is, what constitutes consent and addresses issues such as sugging, generating leads and how suppression lists can be dealt with. It also deals with B2B marketing. As direct marketers are obliged to follow the Code, investigation of breaches should be made easier for the ICO, in turn making it easier for it to take action and impose fines for breach – especially pertinent under the new GDPR regime. Direct marketing companies might want to use the ICOs checklist as a starting point for compliance with the new rules.

Getting To Grips With Social Media

Another new element of the DEA is that it establishes a code of practice for providers of online social media platforms, requiring them to take action against flaming and trolling and “other behaviour likely to intimidate or humiliate the individual”. The DEA stops short of determining how such conduct is to be dealt with and the Code omits this also, presumably leaving it to be determined by criminal legislation.

Some Conclusions

The DEA was lauded as shaping the law for the new digital environment. With the communications sector being the second biggest contributor to the UK economy (at £57bn), new legislation and guidance was long overdue. The Digital Economy Act sets clear new provisions to support future roll-out of all communications technologies in whatever form they take. Whilst it promises access to fast digital communication services for all, this legislation has been enacted at dial up speed and many of its provisions lack clarity and are still not supported by the Codes or Guidance promised in the Act. As these are released however, we will update you.

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