Amendment 2

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords am 5:00 pm ar 11 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Viscount Camrose:

Moved by Viscount Camrose

2: Clause 11, page 6, line 34, leave out “a statement summarising the contents of”Member's explanatory statementThis amendment would require the CMA to publish an SMS investigation notice rather than a summary of the notice.

Photo of Viscount Camrose Viscount Camrose Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

My Lords, the Government fundamentally believe that public transparency is vital for the new digital markets regime. We noted the strength of feeling on this issue from noble Lords in Committee, which is why the Government have tabled amendments to enhance the transparency of the regime. The amendments will require the Digital Markets Unit to publish the full notices relating to SMS designation, conduct requirements and PCIs, so that all interested parties can access them. Amendment 54 makes it explicit that the DMU may make redactions for confidentiality purposes when publishing notices or other documents.

Finally, as a consequence of the other amendments in this group, Amendment 3 will require the DMU to send other regulators a full copy of an SMS investigation notice provided to the firm under investigation, rather than a summary. I hope that noble Lords will support these amendments, which address concerns raised in Committee on the transparency of DMU decisions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, as the Minister described, this group has government amendments, from Amendment 2 to Amendment 38, which add greater transparency to the process adopted by the CMA in disclosing information about cases involving SMS status firms where the challenger companies have an interest. We are pleased with the Minister’s amendments and, broadly speaking, happy to give them our support, as they respond to points that a number of noble Lords made at earlier stages of the Bill about the need for greater transparency and openness.

The SMS companies are in a position of significant market strength vis-à-vis the challenger firms and have a clear interest in seeing the bigger picture when disclosure is made of information that is of material interest. By obliging the publication of the notices and orders, rather than summaries of the documents, we feel that challenger companies will have greater access to key information that may impact on their market performance. Our amendments, from Amendment 4 to Amendment 39, attempt to achieve a similar result; I suspect that Ministers will argue that their amendments have greater elegance and a similar effect.

I turn to government Amendment 54 and our own Amendment 5. We are clearly of a similar mind and share concerns about commercial confidentiality so that, where reasonable, the redaction of documents can take place. We differ in our approach simply by suggesting that there should be a system for registering the documents that are relevant; the Minister might like to think about that at a later date. In essence, this is an operational issue so, to satisfy our concerns, perhaps he can put on record that there will be an effective system for the registration of documents and a notification process that enables the challenger firms to understand better what information has been disclosed to the CMA in the course of its inquiries. On that basis, we will be content not to move our amendments, and we thank the Government for responding to the concerns behind them.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology)

My Lords, this is a very straightforward group, and I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on having persuaded the Government to move further on the transparency agenda. I like the description given by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, of the government amendment being more elegant. It is nice to think of amendments being elegant; it is not often that we think in those terms. We very much support the new amendments with some of the caveats that he made.

Photo of Viscount Camrose Viscount Camrose Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

I thank both noble Lords for speaking so eloquently—indeed, so briefly and elegantly—and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for tabling her amendments, which would require the DMU to establish a process for non-SMS firms to register themselves with the DMU as an interested party. The DMU would then be required to send certain notices to these challenger firms.

The Government agree that it is important that affected parties should have access to appropriate information related to DMU investigations. That is why the Government amendments go further, we feel. They will ensure that, subject to confidentiality, the DMU is required to publish all its SMS conduct requirements and PCI notices online, where they are accessible to everyone and not just specific firms that have registered their interest, or those who might not be considered challenger firms. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, made a point about being informed of these things: while we would prefer not to put any such mechanism in the Bill, it is straightforward to imagine mechanisms that the DMU could employ to automate that.

The CMA has already been updating its approach to identifying and seeking input from third parties, including outside of formal consultations—making calls for evidence when launching investigations, web submission portals, and information requests for businesses, among others It will be able to use these approaches to inform decisions under the new regime.

I agree very much with the spirit of the noble Baroness’s amendments, which is why these government amendments will go further, to promote transparency across the regime. I therefore welcome the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that he feels sufficiently reassured to not press the opposition amendments at this time.

Amendment 2 agreed.