The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released its draft Annual Plan for 2022 to 2023 for consultation. A summary of responses, alongside the final version of the Plan, will be published by the end of March 2022.
The CMA is consulting on the themes it intends to focus on in 2022/23. These are:
- Protecting consumers from unfair behaviour by businesses, during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic
- Fostering competition to promote innovation, productivity and long-term growth right across the UK
- Promoting effective competition in digital markets
- Supporting the transition to low carbon growth, including through the development of healthy competitive markets in sustainable products and services
- Delivering its new responsibilities and strengthening its position as a global competition and consumer protection authority
The key theme of promoting effective competition in digital markets is of particular relevance to publishers. The non-statutory Digital Markets Unit (DMU) was established in April 2021, and will oversee a new regulatory regime for the most powerful digital firms. The Government anticipates that one of the ‘positive externalities’ emanating from the new regime will be increased advertising revenues for publishers resulting from a rebalancing of the online advertising market.
Following the consultation on the new pro-competition regime (to which PPA responded) the CMA is working closely with Government. The Government has committed to legislating when Parliamentary time allows in order to give powers to the DMU; in the interim, the non-statutory DMU is operationalising and preparing for the new regime. In the meantime, the CMA continues to investigate competition cases in digital markets. This includes its investigation of Apple following complaints that its terms and conditions for app developers are unfair and anti-competitive.
The CMA’s plans to support the transition to a low carbon economy are also given prominence. These include the Green Claims Code which provides guidance to help businesses comply with the law, preventing consumers being misled about environmental claims in advertisements, marketing material, branding (including business and trading names), on packaging or in other information provided to consumers. All aspects of a claim may be relevant. The principles are:
- Claims must be truthful and accurate
- Claims must be clear and unambiguous
- Claims must not omit or hide important relevant information
- Comparisons must be fair and meaningful
- Claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service
- Claims must be substantiated
From this month, the CMA is beginning a review of environmental claims (it should be noted that the Code is not a new law, but rather guidance to demonstrate how the law applies to environmental claims). Businesses that fall foul of the law may be subject to civil and criminal enforcement actions, including fines and litigation.