Last week, we wrote about the challenges that the patchwork of complex regulation poses for businesses operating in the tech sector. We noted the July 2020 creation of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF) (which brings together the CMA, ICO and Ofcom) as an important and welcome development, but highlighted the limitations on what such a body can achieve while regulators’ powers are constrained to their own silos, as well as the missed opportunity to involve the Financial Conduct Authority.

DRCF workplan 2021/22

In proof of the fast pace of change in digital regulation, yesterday the DRCF released its workplan for 2021/22, which - in its own words - promises a “step change in coordination of regulation across digital and online services”. It also announced that the FCA - thus far only an observer member of the DRCF - will join as a full member from next month.

Priority areas for collaboration

The work plan identifies design frameworks, algorithmic processing, digital advertising technologies and end-to-end encryption as four key priority areas requiring a more joined-up regulatory approach. 

The DRCF plans to launch joint projects in these priority areas, as well as continuing to collaborate on the individual regulators’ ongoing work – for example the CMA’s Digital Markets Unit and the ICO’s Age Appropriate Design Code.

A welcome development

The DRCF remains – as its name betrays – a cooperation forum only, rather than a regulator with cross-cutting powers or objectives. But the enhanced collaboration and cooperation it promises is a much needed and very welcome development, and a hopeful step on the difficult path towards a coherent regulatory regime for the digital sector.