‘A better deal for consumers in the digital age’, promises UK Government

Mandatory age verification to view online pornography, a crackdown on ticket bots, and new subtitling requirements for video on demand services are are among the measures being taken forward today as work begins on implementing the Digital Economy Act.

The UK Digital Minister Matt Hancock has signed the commencement order for the Act which achieved Royal Assent in April. The UK Government said that it “places the consumer at its heart and will be a vital piece of legislation in making sure the rights and interests of the individual are protected and strengthened in an increasingly digital society”.

Following the signing of the commencement order, work will now begin on:

  • introducing a new age verification process for accessing online pornography, expected to be in place by April 2018, “a milestone in the Government’s work to make the UK the safest place in the world for children to be online,” it said;
  • requiring catch-up TV and video on demand services to provide subtitling and audio description on their programmes – this will bring regulations for catch-up TV into line with traditional viewing;
  • cracking down on ticket touts by making it a criminal offence for those that misuse bot technology to sweep up tickets and sell them at inflated prices in the secondary market;
  • measures to improve digital connectivity for consumers right across the UK, cutting the costs for new infrastructure and simplifying planning rules which will see greater coverage in some of the hardest to reach places in the UK.

“The Digital Economy Act is about building a strong, safe and connected economy. It will secure better support for consumers, better protection for children on the Internet, and underpin a radical transformation of government services,” said Hancock.

A number of provisions in the Act have already come into force, including powers to:

  • implement a new broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO) to give people the right to request an affordable broadband connection, at a minimum speed, from a designated provider, up to a reasonable cost threshold;
  • give consumers and businesses better information about communication services, easier switching and automatic compensation if things go wrong;
  • better protect citizens from nuisance calls.