New measures embracing technological change and consumer protection


This article was first published by Lexis Nexis, June 2019.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced new measures which will free up businesses to take advantage of the latest technologies and get their products to market faster. BEIS has also announced proposed measures to ensure consumers’ data security and
protection of vulnerable customers as part of the outcome of its smart data review. Those provisions will be subject to consultation running until 6 August 2019. All proposals are part of a wider government strategy to prepare the UK for the fourth industrial revolution. Toby Crick, partner at Bristows LLP, comments on the proposed changes, questioning the possibility of streamlined regulation while also bringing in more rights for consumers.

The proposed new measures directed at businesses include:

  • a new Regulatory Horizons Council to advise government on rules and regulations needed to keep pace with technology
  • a regulation navigator—a new digital interface to help businesses navigate the regulatory landscape to bring their ideas to market faster
  • a partnership with the World Economic Forum to share best practice on getting innovative products and services to market
  • a review of the regulators’ pioneer fund which backs projects that test new technologies in partnership with the regulators
Maintaining the UK’s ‘pioneering reputation’

Business Secretary, Greg Clark, pointed to a rapid technological change which includes ‘disrupting markets, companies and the way we work and live our lives.’

He added: ‘Our plans will ensure the UK’s regulatory system maintains its pioneering reputation, keeping pace with cutting-edge technology—from personalised artificial intelligence medicine to smart ships that can navigate the seas autonomously.

‘Our modern Industrial Strategy and innovative regulatory landscape will ensure the UK remains the destination of choice for those developing and bringing transformative products and services to market rapidly and safely.’

Challenges ahead

Crick, however, points to major challenges ahead: ‘Ultimately, any simplification of the regulatory thicket facing innovative businesses has to be good but there will be challenges around data regulation. For example, the UK will remain subject to [the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679] (GDPR) post-Brexit both directly via domestic legislation (as GDPR will be adopted into UK law) and indirectly because GDPR’s extra-territorial nature means it will impact any British business managing personal data.

‘[Also,] lots of other jurisdictions are bringing forward their own data protection laws (notably California). Any innovative company will have to pay attention to these rules as they seek to scale up and expand internationally. It will be interesting to see how these innovative ideas evolve and are ultimately adopted but certainly it is positive that BEIS is taking ideas like this forward for discussion.’

Ensuring data security of consumers

BEIS also proposes measures to ensure consumers’ data security as part of the outcome of its smart data review. The measures include establishing a new cross-sectoral smart data function to oversee the use of smart data in different markets. This in turn would allow businesses to develop apps helping consumers manage their household bills in one place instead of having to wait to gain access to their own information and not being able to use it to shop around for the best deals.

The proposed measures also include provisions to protect vulnerable customers such as a new vulnerable consumer challenge which will encourage innovators, charities and regulators to ensure that their least digitally engaged customers are able to enjoy the best deals as well. BEIS is opening a consultation into those proposed measures which will run until 6 August 2019. Replies from businesses, consumers, organisations specialising in technology, charities working with vulnerable people, academics, think tanks and members of the public are all welcome.

Submissions are to be sent to: BEIS is seeking views especially on how to:

  • enable data driven innovation in consumer markets
  • use data and technology to help vulnerable consumers
  • ensure consumers and their data are protected

More information about the consultation can be found here.

Clark explained that ‘as markets and services change, the volume of data only grows, providing evermore
innovative applications of consumer data.’

He added: ‘We want consumers to benefit from that innovation but in a way that ensures their information is safe. Our proposals will do just that, protecting consumers while allowing them to secure the best deals available on the market.’

Crick, however, expresses his concern over how to reconcile little regulation and strong consumer protection: ‘It is great to see the UK government trying to embrace the data revolution and seeking ways to help businesses, particularly smaller/start up ones, navigate the increasingly complex regulatory landscape. That they are trying to do this while also seeking go give consumers more access to and rights over their data is on the
one hand, really positive offering the potential for a “win/win” but on the other, a bit utopian—how can you have streamlined regulation while bringing in more rights for consumers?’

Toby Crick


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