Consumers must be at heart of Digital Economy ActOpen Rights Group ask government to consult them

10 March 2011


File sharing allows you to easily share large files that are too big to email

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has written an open letter to communications minister Ed Vaizey and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt urging them to include consumer groups in the discussion on web blocking.

Web blocking is one of the most controversial provisions in the Digital Economy Act, aimed at tackling illegal file sharing. Under the provisions of the Act, Ofcom would have the power to block certain websites that facilitated illegal file sharing.

ORG claims that this issue could potentially infringe consumer rights, as well as civil liberties. They have also expressed concerns about the impact and workability of web blocking.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of ORG, said 'we believe groups such as Open Rights Group, Liberty and Consumer Focus should be invited to participate in any discussions aimed at taking a fresh look at web blocking provisions and at finding a 'Plan B' for tackling file-sharing.'

Reviewing the Digital Economy Act

The government has been reviewing the detail of the Digital Economy Act since it was highlighted by the public on Nick Clegg's 'Your Freedom' website.

The controversial act was passed during the period of time known as 'wash up' before the election, and many consumer groups and rights organisations have expressed concern that it has not been properly scrutinised.

When the Digital Economy Act was passed Which? raised concerns about how the law would be implemented, suggesting an independent adjudication system to ensure that people weren't wrongly accused of file sharing. There should also be hurdles in place to ensure that people aren't accused without sufficient evidence, as happened in the ACS: Law case.

Matt Bath, technology editor at Which? said:

'The DEA and the Digital Britain report are about much more than just tackling illegal file sharing. The impact of the digital economy raises significant new issues and challenges that could cause confusion among consumers.

'Consumers need a clear voice and to be placed at the heart of decisions made as part of the Act and Digital Britain. Which? wants to ensure that any measures are fair, transparent, and do not infringe the rights of consumers - with clear information and routes for redress. That's why we support calls for consumer groups to be more involved with the discussions around the Act and taking Digital Britain taking forward, ensuring that consumers have a real stake in any outcomes.'

Which? technology campaigns

We want to make consumers lives fairer, simpler and safer. We've been supporting consumers who have been wrongly accused of illegal file sharing, and continue to campaign for fair file sharing rules. 

Keep up to date with our latest campaigns by following @WhichAction on Twitter or liking Which? Action on facebook