Digital Economy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 13th September 2016.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Labour, Ogmore 4:28 pm, 13th September 2016

I wish to raise two points. First, I echo the plea that hon. Members have made from both sides of the House that the Bill be improved to make it mandatory for developers to connect new builds to fibre broadband. We make such requirements for water, electricity and gas. Clearly, those are extremely important services, but I would argue that most people who are buying a new house would expect the broadband to be at the very highest level. In my constituency, significant large-scale communities have been waiting up to two years for fibre broadband. Anyone who is paying the significant sum necessary to buy a house would expect to have decent broadband in that property.

Secondly, although I welcome the attempts in the Bill to target online copyright infringement, I am disappointed not to see efforts to tackle the sale of counterfeit electrical goods. Research undertaken by the charity Electrical Safety First found that in that past year more than 1 million people in the UK bought counterfeit items, with 64% of those products being bought online. This is an issue that needs addressing, and it is a missed opportunity that the Bill does not take steps to tackle the problem.

Electrical items were among the top five subjects of complaints to Welsh trading standards offices in 2015. Last Christmas Trading Standards Wales did great work and acted swiftly in response to the national scare over dangerous hoverboards, leading to 228 potentially dangerous hoverboards being prevented from getting on to the market in Wales. Sadly, we know that many of these unsafe products did make it into people’s homes, with catastrophic consequences.

Authorities such as the police and trading standards need to be equipped with the necessary legislation to tackle the growing sales of counterfeit electrical goods, along with a statutory obligation to report the quantity seized so that the scale of the problem can be continually monitored. We also need a statutory obligation on online retailers to report to the relevant authorities those who consistently sell counterfeit electrical products. Such reporting would provide an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of legislation such as the 1994 plugs and sockets regulations to prevent counterfeit electrical goods being sold and imported by online retail platforms.

The sale of counterfeit electrical goods is dangerous and amounts to a huge problem. It is estimated that faulty electrical products are responsible for over 7,000 domestic fires a year. The efforts made by this Bill to target online copyright infringement are important, but do not give the necessary attention to the problem of counterfeit electrical goods. The digital economy created the problem, and I urge the Government to ensure that this Bill addresses it.