Clause 26 - Power to begin a conduct investigation

Part of Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 20 June 2023.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) 2:15, 20 June 2023

The publication of notices will be online. The reason that there will be two separate versions is that one might be redacted, for example for things like commercial sensitivity, but it is right that the SMS firm understands the full reasons. Beyond that redaction, there will be one separate online publication for people to see, including the challenger firms themselves.

The hon. Lady spoke about the length of time. The DMU will decide the length of the period during which an SMS firm can make representations, because it will vary from case to case. It is not for us to set an arbitrary timeline, because some will be comparatively simple and others will be incredibly complex and technical. That will ensure that the DMU can run investigations efficiently, without unnecessary delays due to late representations, but the DMU has to tell the SMS firm in the notice opening the investigation about the length of the period.

The implementation of any conduct requirements will be preceded by a public consultation, alongside ongoing engagement between the SMS firm and the DMU about compliance with those requirements as part of the regime’s participative approach. However, there is no statutory requirement to consult on enforcement orders, because we are giving the DMU the discretion to consult where appropriate. Requiring consultation would not be proportionate for straightforward cease-and-desist orders, for example. Such orders, which we expect to be the majority of orders made, simply require firms to stop breaching the original conduct requirement that has already been consulted on, meaning that undertaking a consultation would be unnecessary.

That is where we are coming from on that—there is no deeper reason beyond ensuring that we can keep things proportionate for all sides. Third parties with a view or with evidence will be able to communicate those to the DMU during the conduct investigation itself, or once the enforcement order statement is published.