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General

Government consults on proposals to reduce the amount of information companies need to file with Companies House. Read more

Technology

ASA finds Sky broadband ad exaggerated the effect of Virgin Media’s traffic management policy and denigrated Virgin Media’s brand. Read more

Ofcom publishes consultation on revising annual licence fees for 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands. Read more

European Court of Human Rights finds that holding an internet news portal liable for offensive comments posted by readers was justified and there was no violation of Article 10 rights. Read more

Data Protection

European Commissioner Viviane Reding urges agreement to “one-stop-shop” under data protection reform legislation. Read more

Broadcasting

Ofcom finds the inclusion of footage of physical abuse of a baby in CBS Reality’s real life crime entertainment programme, Caught on Camera, insensitive, inappropriate and in breach of Broadcasting Code. Read more

Publishing

Government confirms that the Privy Council will not be recommending the press industry’s proposed Royal Charter and publishes final draft cross-party Royal Charter on regulation of the press. Read more

Industry Steering Group says it is “deeply disappointed by the Government’s rejection of the industry’s Royal Charter on press regulation. Read more

Industry Steering Group responds to the publication of the revised draft cross-party Royal Charter on regulation of the press. Read more

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) calls on all governments to recognise that freedom of the press is essential to good governance and indispensable to democratic society. Read more

Press Complaints Commission upholds complaint against The Sun for identifying family member of convicted criminal. Read more

Chairman of Professional Publishers Association warns EU leaders of threat to UK publishers from proposed data protection regulation reforms. Read more

Gambling & Betting

Government response to consultation on stake and prize limits for gaming machines is published. Read more

Advertising

ASA publishes Half-year Report on the Regulation of Online Behavioural Advertising. Read more

General

Government consults on proposals to reduce the amount of information companies need to file with Companies House.

The proposals aim to reduce burdensome company filing requirements for the UK’s 3.2 million companies and improve the accuracy of the information supplied to the Government by reducing the amount of information that needs to be supplied and the frequency by which it needs to be sent to Companies House.

A key proposal is the suggested removal of the requirement to complete a mandatory Annual Return.  Under the plans, companies would instead either digitally confirm each year that the information held by Companies House is correct or update it as and when it changes.

The Government says that the proposals would cut the time and money that businesses spend filing out forms, especially benefiting small and medium sized businesses whose details generally remain the same but nevertheless have to be filed each year.  This could also help reduce the amount of fees companies pay to agents to help them file this information.

The consultation also asks whether the Annual Return could still be retained, but better aligned with the filing requirements for the annual accounts which show the performance of the company in the latest financial year.

The proposals follow the Government’s Red Tape Challenge on Company and Commercial Law.  Also included in the plans are measures to:

  • make it easier jointly to file annual accounts to Companies House and HMRC by improving the online filing system for Companies House;
  • reduce form filling for companies with the removal of the “consent to act” note sent to Companies House when a director is appointed.  Companies would only need to confirm it holds such consent and would only need to provide such material in the event of a dispute or legal proceedings;
  • allow companies the option of holding their register of directors and shareholders at Companies House;
  • reduce the time it takes for a company to be struck off the register at Companies House in specific circumstances. Currently this takes roughly 6 months.  Under the proposals this could now take as little as 6 weeks;
  • require companies to provide a demonstrable link with their registered office in the event of a complaint, to help tackle the issue of fraudulent use of an address;
  • conceal all or some of the date of birth of a director listed at Companies House to help tackle identity theft;
  • improve communication with companies by requesting that when a company is set up they supply an email address to Companies House and keep it up to date; and
  • improve the reporting of company subsidiaries.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said: “Cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape for businesses will help build a stronger economy.  It is only right that as well as doing this we also make sure that the information available on a company is accurate and transparent.  We’re taking steps that will mean that businesses, pushed for time and money, are not simply filing paperwork for the sake of it.  This will mean companies can concentrate on growing their business and creating jobs”.

The consultation runs until 22 November.  To access the consultation documentation, click here.

Technology

ASA finds Sky broadband ad exaggerated the effect of Virgin Media’s traffic management policy and denigrated Virgin Media’s brand.

A direct mailing from Sky included a letter and a booklet.  Text on the envelope stated: “Let’s give Virgin Media a call and see what happens”.  The booklet was presented in the style of a conversation between a customer and Virgin Media’s customer services.  Text in the booklet stated: “So this super-duper fast broadband I’ve got is always going to stay that way, right?”  The response stated: “Well that depends. We do have a traffic management policy.”   Text on the next page of the booklet stated: “At Sky, when we say our broadband usage is unlimited, that’s exactly what we mean”.  The mailing went on in a similar manner including, “I’ve just bought an amazing new 3D TV.  Can’t wait to try out the dedicated 3D channel.”  The response stated: “Sorry, we don’t have one of those.

Virgin Media challenged whether the ad misleadingly exaggerated the effect of its traffic management policy (TMP) on its broadband customers and whether the ad was denigrating to the Virgin Media brand by presenting an overly negative portrayal of the service its customers received.

The ASA considered the reference to Virgin Media’s traffic management policy to mean that customers receiving Virgin Media’s superfast services, namely those with speeds above 30 Mb, were likely to have the speed of its service reduced to below 30 Mb as a result of the TMP.  Because the policy affected only a small percentage of its customers and did not reduce the speed of the service customers received on its superfast services to below 30Mb, the ASA considered the ad misleadingly exaggerated the effect of Virgin Media’s TMP on its broadband customers and breached CAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.33 (Comparisons).

The ASA also considered that the ad was presented in a manner that went beyond a robust and objective comparison of the services offered by Sky and Virgin Media and denigrated Virgin Media’s brand.  It therefore concluded that the ad breached CAP Code rule 3.42 (Comparisons).  To read ASA Adjudication on British Sky Broadcasting Ltd (9 October 2013), click here.

Ofcom publishes consultation on revising annual licence fees for 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands.

The 900 MHz and 1800 MHz spectrum bands are currently used by mobile network operators for voice calls, 3G and some 4G services.  In December 2010, the Government directed Ofcom to revise these fees so that they reflect full market value.

The Government Direction required that, in setting these fees, Ofcom should have particular regard to the sums bid for licences in the 4G auction for 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum, which Ofcom completed earlier this year.

Ofcom says that, since spectrum is a valuable and finite national resource, charging for it can incentivise the optimal use of frequencies.

Mobile network operators currently pay a combined total of £24.8m per year for 900 MHz spectrum and £39.7m for 1800 MHz spectrum.

To calculate the full market value of the spectrum, Ofcom analysed the sums paid in the 4G auction, compared the amounts bid in overseas spectrum auctions and assessed the technical and commercial characteristics of the UK spectrum bands.  This produced revised proposed total fees payable by mobile network operators of £138.5m per year for 900 MHz spectrum and £170.4m for 1800 MHz spectrum.

Vodafone and O2 currently pay £15.6 million every year.  Ofcom is proposing the revised amount of £83.1 million for both operators.  EE currently pays £24.9 million annually and Ofcom is proposing that it pay £107.1 million.  As for H3G, it currently pays £8.3 million, which Ofcom is proposing to revise to £35.7 million. 

The EE and H3G figures relate to holdings after EE’s divestment of 1800 MHz spectrum to H3G, to be completed in October 2015.

Ofcom says that, subject to the consultation, new annual licence fees are likely to come into effect next year.  The consultation closes on 19 December 2013.  To access the consultation documentation, click here.

European Court of Human Rights finds that holding an internet news portal liable for offensive comments posted by readers was justified and there was no violation of Article 10 rights.

The applicant, Delfi AS, a public limited company registered in Estonia, owned one of the largest internet news websites in the country.  In January 2006, Delfi published an article on its webpage about a ferry company.  The article discussed the company’s decision to change the route its ferries took to certain islands, which had caused ice to break where ice roads could have been made in the future.  As a result, the opening of these roads, which provided cheaper and faster routes to the islands compared to the ferry services, was postponed for several weeks.  Below the article, readers could access the comments of other users of the site.  Many readers had written highly offensive or threatening posts about the ferry operator and its owner.

The owner of the ferry company sued Delfi in April 2006 and successfully obtained a judgment against it in June 2008.  The Estonian court had found that the comments were defamatory and that Delfi was responsible for them.  An appeal by Delfi was dismissed by Estonia’s Supreme Court in June 2009.  In particular, the domestic courts rejected Delfi’s argument that, under the E-Commerce Directive, its role as an internet service provider or storage host was merely technical, passive and neutral.  The Estonian courts held that the portal exercised control over the publication of comments.

Delfi applied to the ECtHR complaining that that being held liable in this way breached its right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court found that although the portal had argued that the E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC), as transposed into Estonian law, had made it exempt from liability, it was for national courts to resolve domestic law interpretation issues.  The court held that the Estonian courts had relied on the provisions of its Civil Code to find Delfi liable and sanction it.  The interference with Delfi’s right to freedom of expression had therefore been lawful and complied with the “prescribed by law” requirement under the ECHR.

The court further noted that Article 10 allowed freedom of expression to be interfered with by Member States in order to protect a person’s reputation, as long as the interference was proportionate in the circumstances.  The essential question was therefore whether this interference was proportionate.

In assessing this question, the Court examined four key issues.  First, it looked at the context of the posts.  It found that the comments had been insulting, threatening and defamatory.  Given the nature of the article, Delfi should have expected offensive posts and exercised an extra degree of caution so as to avoid being held liable for damage to an individual’s reputation.

Secondly, the court examined the steps taken by Delfi to prevent publication of the defamatory comments.  The article’s webpage did state that the authors of comments would be liable for their content and that threatening or insulting comments were not allowed.  The webpage also automatically deleted posts that contained a series of vulgar words, and users could tell administrators about offensive comments by clicking a single button, which would then lead to the posts being removed.  However, the warnings failed to prevent a large number of insulting comments from being made and they were not removed in good time by the automatic-word filtering or by the notice-and-take-down notification system.

Thirdly, the court looked at whether the actual authors of the comments could have been made liable for them.  The owner of the ferry company could, in principle, have attempted to sue the specific authors of the offensive posts rather than Delfi.  However, the identity of the authors would have been extremely difficult to establish, as readers were allowed to make comments without registering their names.  Therefore, many of the posts were anonymous.  Making Delfi legally responsible for the comments was therefore practical, but it was also reasonable because the news portal received commercial benefit from the comments made.

Finally, the court addressed the consequences of Delfi being made liable.  The sanctions imposed by the Estonian courts against the company had been fairly small.  Delfi had been required to pay a €320 fine, and the courts had not made any orders about how the portal should protect third party rights in the future in a way that might limit free speech.

Taking all this into account, the court held that making Delfi liable for the comments was a justified and proportionate interference with its right to freedom of expression.  There had therefore been no violation of Article 10.  (Delfi AS v Estonia (application no 64569/09) (10 October 2013) – to read the judgment in full, click here).

Data Protection

European Commissioner Viviane Reding urges agreement to “one-stop-shop” under data protection reform legislation.

Speaking at the Justice Council in Luxembourg on 8 October 2013, Commissioner Reding said that data protection reforms were “vital for both businesses and citizens”. 

Commissioner Reding was particularly interested in the forthcoming discussion on the “one-stop-shop”, which in her view is a “key building block of the EU data protection reform and a prime example of the added value of the Regulation”.  She said that it ensures legal certainty for businesses operating throughout the EU and brings benefits for businesses, individuals and data protection authorities.  For example, businesses will profit from faster decisions from one single interlocutor (eliminating multiple contact points), from less red tape, and from the reinforcing of data protection authorities.  Commissioner Reding urged delegates to “give a unanimous signal that the one-stop shop is the only way forward for a “Win-Win-Win Situation””.

However, Commissioner Reding said, in order to find a solution to the “one-stop-shop”, “we need to be sure that the right balance is struck between the role of the authority of main establishment, and the powers of the authority which receives a complaint”.

The authority of the main establishment must retain meaningful powers, Ms Reding said and, in order to “guarantee the proximity of decision-making to citizens”, data protection authorities that receive complaints need to be given an increased role.

Commissioner Reding also said that experts should explore how the European Data Protection Board can be reinforced in order to ensure consistency in how the law is applied and to ensure that the system remains “fast, workable and effective and provides added-value”.

In conclusion, Ms Reding proposed that delegates agree to the principle of a one-stop-shop, with strong co-operation between authorities, in particular of the authorities that receive complaints, and with the option to escalate a discussion to the European Data Protection Board.  To read Commissioner Reding’s speech in full, click here.

Broadcasting

Ofcom finds the inclusion of footage of physical abuse of a baby in CBS Reality’s real life crime entertainment programme, Caught on Camera, insensitive, inappropriate and in breach of Broadcasting Code.

This particular edition of the programme included various crimes caught on camera, such as people rioting in the street and a fight between two men in a bridal shop.  It also featured six incidents of physical abuse by a nanny on an eleven-month-old infant. 

Following a complaint, CBS Chellozone defended the programme saying that it was broadcast at midnight, the footage was available, unrestricted, online on YouTube and there were warnings before and pointers throughout the programme. 

Ofcom considered that footage was clearly capable of causing offence and that the level of potential offence was increased by the fact that the various incidents of abuse were repeated numerous times (sometimes in slow motion), accompanied by music, visual devices, editing and descriptive commentary.  Ofcom added that the footage was not consistent with the programme’s regular range of crimes featured and that even though broadcast after midnight, the strength of this material and the way it was treated would have exceeded audience expectations. 

In Ofcom’s opinion, the warnings did not provide in any way sufficient justification to feature the repeated and graphic footage of the abuse as it was presented bearing in mind the strong emotions and distress such images generate.  Ofcom concluded that the offence was not justified by the context and that the broadcaster did not apply generally accepted standards.  The programme therefore breached Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code.  To read Ofcom’s adjudication on Caught on Camera, published in Issue 239 of the Broadcast Bulletin (7 October 2013), click here.

Publishing

Government confirms that the Privy Council will not be recommending the press industry’s proposed Royal Charter and publishes final draft cross-party Royal Charter on regulation of the press.

On 8 October 2013, in a statement to Parliament, Culture Secretary Maria Miller said that the press’ version did not comply with key Leveson requirements with regard to independence and access to arbitration.  Instead, she said, a further draft of the cross-party Charter agreed on 18 March would be made available by 11 October and the final form of the draft Charter would be put before the Privy Council at a specially convened meeting on 30 October. 

Publication of the amended cross-party Charter on 11 October followed discussions between the three main political parties, discussions with the Scottish Government in relation to technical changes necessary to ensure the draft Charter applied in Scotland, and consultation with the Commissioner for Public Appointments.  A thorough technical review of the document was also undertaken.  The Government says that the drafting of the original cross-party Charter has been improved to take into account the concerns of the press with regard to the proposed arbitration scheme, the editors’ code, and the need to address the position in Scotland. 

The Government says that the cross-party Charter cannot be amended by Parliament unless the changes proposed have the backing of two-thirds of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  While that is currently true, this requirement could itself be amended by a future Parliament.  The press industry proposal sought to avoid this risk by removing the role of Parliament and providing that any changes should require the unanimous decision of the newspaper industry trade bodies, the regulator and the recognition panel that would audit it.

In response to criticism that the Press Complaints Commission had been run by Conservative peers in the past, the cross-party Charter includes a ban on any peer acting as a Director on the regulatory board unless they have had no party affiliation within the previous five years. The press industry proposal would have allowed peers to act as Directors.

Under the cross-party Charter, former editors are banned from serving on the Recognition Panel, the body that will monitor whether newspapers are being regulated properly.  The press industry proposals allowed former editors to serve on the panel and contained an additional requirement that at least one panel member should have newspaper industry experience.

Although both Charters give the regulator the power to require publication of corrections and to impose fines (in the case of the cross-party proposals, of up to £1 million) only the cross-party Charter allows the regulator to force a regulated entity to publish an apology.  The press industry proposal was limited to allowing the regulator, during mediation, to try and persuade the regulated entity to publish an apology.

The cross-party proposal obliges the regulator to establish an arbitration service that complies with the Arbitration Act 1996, ensuring that a binding, free arbitration service will be provided for victims, and a fast complaints system will be established to ensure all individuals can afford to pursue action against publishers.  The press industry was (and is) naturally wary that a free service will lead to a surge in claims for damages.  Their proposal provided that the regulator may, but was not required to, establish an arbitration service together with an annual report and annual statement, including information as to the extent the arbitration service had been utilised. 

In order to address the press industry’s concerns, the revised cross-party Charter has been amended to give the local and regional press the option of not participating in the Regulator’s arbitral process where the Board of the Recognition Panel decides that the requirement to provide such a process causes the publisher concerned “serious financial harm”.

In addition, Recognition Criterion 22(e) in Schedule 3, which states that the Board should provide an arbitral process for civil legal claims against subscribers that “operates under the principle that arbitration should be free for complainants to use”, now has a footnote, which states as follows: “The principle that arbitration should be free does not preclude the charging of a small administration fee, provided that: (a) the fee is determined by the Regulator and approved by the Board of the Recognition Panel; and (b) the fee is used for the purpose of defraying the cost of the initial assessment of an application and not for meeting the costs of determining an application (including the costs of the arbitration)”.

As for the appointment of the Appointments Committee, the Charter has been amended in various ways, including the insertion of the word “merit”, alongside “fairness and openness”, to be the three basic principles in relation to appointments and to make clear that the Appointments Committee is independent and not part of the Recognition Panel.

 As for the Standards Code, Recognition Criterion 7 has been deleted and replaced with the following:

“The standards code must ultimately be the responsibility of, and adopted by, the Board, advised by a Code Committee which may comprise both independent members of the Board and serving editors.  Serving editors have an important part to play although not one that is decisive”.

Whereas previously, the Code Committee had ultimate responsibility for the code, it is now the Board that would bear such responsibility.  This has been done, the Government says, in recognition of the need for the code to be drafted by practitioners drawn from the industry and because it should ultimately be the responsibility of the Board, with advice from the Code Committee.

As for Scotland, on 30 April 2013 the Scottish Parliament voted to agree to Scottish participation in the Charter.  The Charter has therefore been amended to properly reflect Scotland’s devolved responsibilities.  To read Maria Miller’s statement to Parliament, click here.  For a link to the final form cross-party Charter and Explanatory Memorandum, click here.

Industry Steering Group responds to the publication of the revised draft cross-party Royal Charter on regulation of the press.

The Steering Group, which comprises the Newspaper Society, the Newspaper Publishers Association, the Professional Publishers Association and the Scottish Newspaper Society said that it welcomed the fact that, “after more than six months, politicians are finally seeing some of the flaws in their unacceptable and unilateral March 18 Charter”.  It says that it will be studying the proposals closely.

However, the Group said, “this remains a Charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians.  It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate”.  It also said that the industry’s Charter “was rejected by eight politicians, meeting in secret, and chaired by the same politician who is promoting the politicians’ Charter”.

Lord Justice Leveson called for “voluntary, independent self-regulation” of the press.  In the Group’s view, “It is impossible to see how a regulator operating under rules imposed by politicians, and enforced by draconian and discriminatory provisions for damages and costs in civil cases, could be said to be either voluntary or independent”.  To read the Group’s statement in full, click here.

Industry Steering Group says it is “deeply disappointed by the Government’s rejection of the industry’s Royal Charter on press regulation.

The Industry Steering Group says that it is deeply disappointed that the Privy Council sub committee has rejected its Charter proposal, “which set out criteria for tough and independent self-regulation with the support of virtually all of the newspaper and magazine industry”.

The Industry Steering Group notes that, in his report, Lord Justice Leveson said: “What is required is independent self-regulation.  By far the best solution to press standards would be a body, established and organised by the industry which would provide genuinely independent and effective regulation of its members…”

In the Steering Group’s view, “It is impossible to see how a Royal Charter that has been written by politicians and the Hacked Off lobby group and is to be imposed by politicians could possibly meet Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendation”.

Further, the Steering Group says, Leveson himself did not propose a Royal Charter and he rejected the possibility of a recognition body established by Parliament or the Government saying: “… one of the fundamental requirements for the regulatory body is independence from the Government. Any Parliamentary process would be likely to be perceived by the industry, and possibly the public, as Government interference in the independence of the press.”

The cross-party proposed Royal Charter has, the Steering Group notes, already been universally rejected by the industry and “it is even more regrettable that the industry will have no opportunity to take part in the discussions between the political parties over possible amendments”.

The Steering Group concludes that: “The Privy Council make it very clear that Royal Charter proposals are unlikely to succeed if they are the subject of controversy. Nothing could be more controversial than a Royal Charter imposed by politicians on an industry which is wholly opposed to it and which would fatally undermine freedom of expression”.  To read the Steering Group’s statement as published on the Newspaper Society’s website, click here.

World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) calls on all governments to recognise that freedom of the press is essential to good governance and indispensable to democratic society.

The call from WAN-IFRA follows, it says, recent attacks on press freedom in the United States, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The Board of WAN-IFRA said in a resolution issued during its meeting on the eve of the World Publishing Expo in Berlin, “WAN-IFRA calls on democratic governments to recognise that acts of intimidation and surveillance against the press risk undermining the fabric of transparent, accountable governance.”

The resolution noted that attempts by democratic governments to restrict the freedom of the press “risked emboldening oppressive regimes to use such practices to silence independent voices and those critical of government”.

The resolution also called on all governments to actively uphold the fundamental human right of freedom of expression in order to preserve the freedom of the press for future generations.  To read WAN-IFRA’s press release in full and for a link to the resolution, click here.

Press Complaints Commission upholds complaint against The Sun for identifying family member of convicted criminal.

The PCC has upheld a complaint against The Sun under Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice because it identified (by first name) a woman whose brother had committed a high-profile murder.

The complainant said that she was not genuinely relevant to her brother’s crime, so she should not have been named by the newspaper.  The newspaper argued that, although she had not been identified by name during her brother’s trial, the defendant’s relationship with his family had been discussed in court, and reference to his sister had been made.  In these circumstances, the newspaper believed that she was genuinely relevant to the story.

The PCC found that, while discussion of her brother’s family background might be of relevance to his crime and therefore potentially a matter of public interest, the newspaper’s decision to identify the complainant by name, when she had not been named in court, did not further this public interest and was not justified.  The complaint was upheld on this basis.

Charlotte Dewar, Director of Complaints and Pre-publication Services at the PCC, said: “The purpose of this clause is to protect family members and friends from being unnecessarily associated with crimes committed by others, in which they have had no role.  On this occasion, the Commission decided that the identification by name of the convicted man’s innocent sibling was gratuitous.  It therefore upheld the complaint”.  To read Adjudication in A Woman v The Sun (11 October 2013) in full, click here.

Chairman of Professional Publishers Association warns EU leaders of threat to UK publishers from proposed data protection regulation reforms.

PPA Chairman, Kevin Hand, held a series of meetings in Brussels with European Commissioner Viviane Reding, Mary Honeyball MEP, and Baroness Ludford MEP, where he expressed concern over proposals in the draft Data Protection Regulation that could have, in his view, a commercial impact on publishers by affecting their ability to market subscriptions and sell advertising.

The main views expressed by Mr Hand included:

  • the use of data has transformed the publishing and advertising industries and is essential for the growth of Europe’s digital economy.  It enables marketing communications to be more relevant and therefore more valuable;
  • business understands that trust is built on openness and accountability.  Regulators that do  not understand the issue feel that trust can be built through restrictions and controls;
  • prescriptive, rigid, statutory regulation is unnecessary.  Consumers will not engage with brands that behave recklessly;
  • innovation should not be “choked”.  Regulators must allow room for experimentation in which best practice is key;
  • measures that stop publishers from innovating and marketing their own products should not be introduced.

The read the PPA’s press release in full, click here.

Gambling & Betting

Government response to consultation on stake and prize limits for gaming machines is published.

The Government says that it has set out plans “to stimulate the gaming machine market” as part of a package of changes to stake and prize limits for gaming machines.

The Government’s announcement came as part of the Government’s response to a three-month consultation that invited views from the gambling industry, charities and faith and community groups on the value of stakes and prizes on a range of gaming machines.  The consultation ran earlier this year and looked at gaming machines classified as category B, C and D and found in places like betting shops, sea side arcades, pubs and casinos.  It also included a call for evidence in relation to B2 machines (sometimes referred to as fixed odds betting terminals FOBTs) and concerns about their link to problem gambling.

The proposals follow advice from the Gambling Commission and the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, which makes clear that there is scope to increase stake and prize limits for some categories of gaming machines provided the industry makes progress in strengthening player protection.

The Government says that the proposed changes are underpinned by commitments from the gambling industry to bring in greater player protection measures set out in new voluntary codes, including voluntary monetary and time limits for players, improved voluntary self-exclusion mechanisms and enhanced player warnings.

After considering the formal advice from the Gambling Commission and a wide range of views in the consultation, the Government says that it has decided not to proceed with a precautionary reduction in stakes or prizes on FOBTs at this stage.  However, the Government shares an expectation with the Gambling Commission that there needs to be more work done to explore the potential harm of these machines and has told the industry that it must share its data on machine use to inform new research on their impact.  The Government says that it expects “rapid progress” from the industry in this area.

Additionally, the Government has asked the industry to monitor the effectiveness of new player protection measures that will that will start imminently and provide greater safeguards for players.  To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.

Advertising

ASA publishes Half-year Report on the Regulation of Online Behavioural Advertising.

The report highlights complaint issues, the incidence of non-compliance with CAP Code rules on OBA, and the ASA’s plans to increase awareness of the rules with companies that are engaging in OBA.

OBA is a form of targeted advertising that involves the collection of information from a computer’s web browser in order to deliver online ads that are more likely to be of interest to the user.  On 4 February 2013 the ASA began administering new CAP Code rules governing OBA, based on the self-regulatory framework established by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe.

As part of its work in this area the ASA monitored the websites of over 350 companies and organisations (third parties) delivering these ads.  It found that many of the companies monitored were including links to information about OBA and how to opt-out, but the appearance and placement of the initial notices were inadequate.  The ASA has followed up by contacting third parties it considers likely to be in breach of the rules.  Technological challenges, however, prevented the ASA from assessing whether opt-out mechanisms around the ads themselves are working efficiently.  To read the full report click here.

 

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