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Tomos Griffiths

Tomos Griffiths is an associate working across the technology regulatory and competition groups in London.

Tomos joined the firm as a trainee solicitor in 2021, qualifying in 2023. His practice covers technology regulation, competition law, and regulation that spans the two. His recent experience includes advising clients on data protection compliance, foreign direct investment screening, and competition law litigation.

As a trainee solicitor, Tomos also gained experience in capital markets and commercial litigation for clients in the technology and life sciences sectors.

What do you need to know?

Following a call for information earlier this year, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has now announced the changes it intends to make to its merger review process. The majority of the changes are to the Phase 2 process, which is only encountered in a minority of formal reviews, namely those where the CMA believes the merger could lead to a substantial lessening of competition – at the time of writing, of the 76 merger reviews opened by the CMA since 1 January 2022, only nine (12%) had been referred to Phase 2 (whereas around 10% of non-simplified merger review procedures lead to a Phase 2 review in the EU). These changes largely seek to make the Phase 2 process more interactive, with a view to arriving at acceptable remedies proposals sooner in the process. The proposed changes follow a period of criticism of the CMA’s approach to merger enforcement and reflect a desire to improve the effectiveness of the UK merger review process. The proposed changes are being consulted on until 8 January 2024. 

Why is the CMA revising its Phase 2 procedures?

The amendments are being introduced against the backdrop of the UK’s exit from the EU. Post-Brexit, global deals that could affect competition in the UK and would previously have been the reviewed by the European Commission under its “one-stop-shop” principle are now often reviewed by the CMA in parallel, giving rise to divergent outcomes on clearance or acceptable remedies with surprising frequency. As the CMA’s responsibility has increased, so too has the brightness of the spotlight on its approach to merger enforcement which has also exposed the fact that the EU and UK merger processes are often not in sync. As explained below, some of the CMA’s proposals bring the UK process closer to that of the European Commission, suggesting that limiting (procedural) divergence could be a key driver behind these changes.Continue Reading Towards a More Interactive Merger Review Process: UK CMA Proposes Amendments

The Digital Markets Act (“DMA”) will apply from 2 May 2023. In anticipation of this, the European Commission (“Commission”) has sought feedback via a public consultation on the draft DMA Implementing Regulation (“IR”) between early December and 9 January 2023.

The draft IR addresses a range of procedural aspects concerning the DMA, including gatekeeper designation and core platform service notifications, opening of proceedings, the right to be heard, and access to the file. By contrast, the draft IR so far is silent on the Commission’s investigative powers during the gatekeeper designation process and the process of further specifying the obligations set out in Article 6 DMA (both of which gatekeepers will undoubtedly be eager to learn more about).

The Commission is aiming to publish the final IR before Spring, and it will apply from the same date as the DMA. Whilst the draft IR may still be subject to changes before the final version is adopted, it already provides valuable insights into the Commission’s thinking.  How stakeholder feedback might affect these issues in the final IR remains to be seen.

Two themes in the draft IR – each further outlined below – are particularly noteworthy:

  • First, it touches upon the potential delineations of core platform service under the DMA, an issue which can have important ramifications for future enforcement: delineating one core platform service from other services in the context of digital ecosystems which are often designed to be seamless could prove rather complex.
  • Second, the draft IR displays a certain tension between achieving a “rapid and effective investigatory and enforcement process” (Recital 3 IR) while also ensuring that rights of the defence of the parties to the proceedings are effectively protected. The Commission’s emphasis on speed in DMA enforcement may require some notable departures from the traditional procedural framework for antitrust.

Continue Reading Countdown to Compliance: the DMA Implementing Regulation

In the early hours of Friday, 13 May, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU reached provisional political agreement on a new framework EU cybersecurity law, known as “NIS2”. This new law, which will replace the existing NIS Directive (which was agreed around the same time as GDPR, see here) aims to strengthen EU-wide cybersecurity protection across a broader range of sectors, including the pharmaceutical sector, medical device manufacturing, and the food sector.

We set out background on NIS2 in prior blog posts (e.g., in relation to the original proposal in late 2020, see here, and more recently when the Council of the EU adopted an updated version in December 2021). Whilst we are still waiting for the provisionally agreed text to be released, a few points are worth mentioning from this latest agreement:

  • Clearer delineation of scope. NIS2 will only apply to entities that meet certain size thresholds in the prescribed sectors, namely
    • “essential entities” meaning those operating in the following sectors: energy; transport; banking; financial market infrastructures; health (including the manufacture of pharmaceutical products); drinking water; waste water; digital infrastructure (internet exchange points; DNS providers; TLD name registries; cloud computing service providers; data centre service providers; content delivery networks; trust service providers; and public electronic communications networks and electronic communications services); public administration; and space; and
    • “important entities”, meaning those operating in the following sectors: postal and courier services; waste management; chemicals; food; manufacturing of medical devices, computers and electronics, machinery equipment, motor vehicles; and digital providers (online market places, online search engines, and social networking service platforms).

Continue Reading Political Agreement Reached on New EU Horizontal Cybersecurity Directive

On May 10, 2022, Prince Charles announced in the Queen’s Speech that the UK Government’s proposed Online Safety Bill (the “OSB”) will proceed through Parliament. The OSB is currently at committee stage in the House of Commons. Since it was first announced in December 2020, the OSB has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny on the balance it seeks to strike between online safety and protecting children on the one hand, and freedom of expression and privacy on the other.

To what services does the OSB apply?

The OSB applies to “user-to-user” (“U2U”) services—essentially, services through which users can share content online, such as social media and online messaging services—and “search” services. The OSB specifically excludes  email services, SMS, “internal business services,” and services where the communications functionality is limited (e.g., to posting comments relating to content produced by the provider of the service). The OSB also excludes “one-to-one live aural communications”—suggesting that one-to-one over-the-top (“OTT”) calls are excluded, but that one-to-many OTT calls, or video calls, may fall within scope.Continue Reading Online Safety Bill to Proceed Through Parliament

The UK is not alone in feeling the effects of the Russia-Ukraine crisis which compounded an already tight energy market, in which the post-Covid economic recovery caused demand to outstrip supply. But the UK does appear to have been perhaps more heavily affected by this combination of factors, which has led to a steep rise in energy costs. With an average UK family’s energy bill increasing by 54% so far this year and inflation nudging the double-digit mark, the ONS declared earlier this month that the squeeze on living standards was the worst since the 1950s.

The EU has belatedly realized the dangers of its over-reliance on Russian hydrocarbons and is urgently seeking to source gas and oil supply elsewhere. In the short to medium term, this will force global gas prices higher as the EU competes on global gas markets for a constrained resource. In the longer term, countries view the war in Ukraine as a clear indication that reliable, clean, domestically-produced renewable energy bolsters national security by removing dependence on volatile international hydrocarbon markets. The PM’s comments in the foreword – “We need a power supply that’s made in Britain, for Britain” – underline how that sentiment also applies in the UK, whilst at the same time hint, perhaps worryingly, at a less globalized future energy market.

It is against this backdrop that on 7 April, almost unnoticed, the UK Government published its long-awaited Energy Security Strategy (ESS). The ESS was supplemented by the announcement in this week’s Queen Speech of the proposal for an Energy Security Bill, building on last year’s COP26 Summit in Glasgow and designed to deliver the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy in the UK.

UK Energy Security Strategy

Immediate Support on Energy Bills

The ESS sets out a new Energy Bills Support Scheme that will see a £200 reduction in energy bills from October 2022, to be offset against a Government levy on domestic energy bills over 5 years from FY23. To mitigate the high cost of industrial electricity, the Government will extend the Energy Intensive Industries Compensation Scheme for a further three years, and increase the intensity of the aid to up to 100 per cent, representing 1.5 per cent of Gross Value Added. It will also consider increasing the renewable obligation exemption to 100 per cent. These measures will enable businesses to apply for greater relief for part of their electricity costs. The Government has since announced that the total level of compensation under the Scheme will increase from roughly £130 million to up to £280 million.

Energy Efficiency

Building on existing efforts to promote the energy efficiency of UK homes, the Government will make the installation of energy-saving materials zero-rated for VAT purposes for the next five years. A new £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme will facilitate the uptake of heat pumps, alongside a Heat Pump Investment Accelerator Competition being run in 2022, worth up to £30 million. Later this year, the Government will aim to publish proposals incentivising electrification, which aims to ensure that heat pumps are comparatively cheap to run. The Government will increase innovation funding for the development and piloting of new green finance products for consumers from £10 million to £20 million. Early 2023 will see a formal consultation on new minimum standards and labelling requirements for a range of energy-using products.

Oil and Gas

The ESS sets out the Government’s vision for the North Sea, noting that in order to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels, the UK must fully utilise North Sea reserves; use empty caverns for CO2 storage; and encourage the use of hydrogen as a natural gas alternative, alongside using North Sea offshore expertise to support the offshore wind sector. The ESS argues that there is no contradiction between the UK’s net zero commitment and its commitment to a strong and evolving North Sea industry, but rather that one depends on the other.
Continue Reading The UK’s New Energy Security Strategy

As many readers will be aware, a key enforcement trend in the privacy sphere is the increasing scrutiny by regulators and activists of cookie banners and the use of cookies. This is a topic that we have been tracking on the Inside Privacy blog for some timeItalian and German data protection authorities have

I.  Introduction: the Scottish Government’s Draft Hydrogen Action Plan

On the 10th of November 2021, the Scottish Government published its Draft Hydrogen Action Plan (the “Plan”), as a companion document to its December 2020 Hydrogen Policy Statement.

The Plan sets out the Scottish Government’s detailed proposals for the Hydrogen industry in Scotland