The Consumer Rights Bill is progressing through Parliament is currently at the report stage in the house of Lords. It will next be debated on 24th November.Elspeth Howe has again proposed her clause requiring age verification for adult content. It has been kicked out several times in the past as the government recognises the need to work with the telecoms industry rather than impose onerous new laws (of course the government hasn’t shown the same pragmatic approach to the adult internet industry).
The new clause was proposed by Baroness Elspeth Howe, Baroness King, Lord Cormack and Baroness Floella Benjamin. It is titled amendment 50D.
“Duty to provide an internet service that protects children from digital content
(1) Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(2) Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.
(3) The conditions are–
(a) the subscriber “opts-in” to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;
(b) the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and
(c) the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a user is able to access adult content.
(4) It shall be the duty of OFCOM, to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the–
(a) filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 (OFCOM’s standards code);
(b) age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content; and
(c) filtering of content by age or subject category by providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators.
(5) The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.
(6) Before setting standards under subsection (5), OFCOM must publish, in such a manner as they think fit, a draft of the proposed code containing those standards.
(7) After publishing the draft code and before setting the standards, OFCOM must consult relevant persons and organisations.
(8) It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4), including complaints about incorrect filtering of content.
(9) OFCOM may designate any body corporate to carry out its duties under this section in whole or in part.
(10) OFCOM may not designate a body under subsection (9) unless, as respects that designation, they are satisfied that the body–
(a) is a fit and proper body to be designated;
(b) has consented to being designated;
(c) has access to financial resources that are adequate to ensure the effective performance of its functions under this section; and
(d) is sufficiently independent of providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators.
(11) In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator–
(a) was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and
(b) acting in good faith.
(12) For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in subsections (1) and (2) prevents providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators from providing additional levels of filtering content.
(13) In this section–
“adult content” means an internet access service that contains harmful and offensive materials from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected;
“harmful and offensive materials” has the same meaning as in section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 (general duties of OFCOM);
“material from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected” means material specified in the OFCOM standards under section 319(2)(a) of the Communications Act 2003 (OFCOM’s standards code);
“opts-in” means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content.”