Welcome to the October edition of Technol-AG, Addleshaw Goddard's monthly technology update.
Technol-AG October 2023
In a recent blog post, the Government outlined its intention to implement Open Banking into GOV.UK Pay system as part of its broader programme to deliver cost-effective and time saving new functionality for the Government's digital services. By incorporating Open Banking, the Government emphasised its commitment to providing individuals with the convenience of using their personal banking apps to pay for services.
This announcement is accompanied by a series of other measures, including the extension of GOV.UK offering to include Apple Pay and Google Pay for local authority services. Additionally, GOV.UK Pay has introduced a Recurring Card Payments function, initially in collaboration with Kent County Council. The Government plans to extend this functionality to other public services as well.
Among other measures, it has also been announced that the GOV.UK Notify is launching the ability to add attachments and QR codes to letters. Furthermore, the GOV.UK Design System is reviewing all components and patterns in accordance with the new WCAG 2.2 guidelines. Emerging products, such as GOV.UK Forms, are also currently in development.
Open Banking currently has more than seven million users (as of 2022) and counting.
Open Banking is the generic term that refers to the practice of allowing regulated third parties direct access to customers' bank accounts and account data, with a customer's consent. Access is made possible through APIs which enable the secure exchange of live data leaving previously used "screen scraping" and file download techniques obsolete.
Open Banking services fall into two categories:
- Account Information Service Providers (AISPs) who retrieve bank account data in order to provide customers with financial management tools or improve lenders' underwriting decisions; and
- Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs) who initiate payments on behalf of payers with their bank, utilising existing payment system rails.
It is in the Open Banking Payments space that we are now seeing the most growth and usage of Open Banking. For example, the Government's revenue and customs agency HMRC has been the pioneer of the Open Banking revolution, collecting Self-Assessment payments from taxpayers since February 2022.
Open Banking Payments promise to accelerate quickly not just in the UK but also worldwide. In the UK, the regulatory mandate for building an Open Banking ecosystem is now substantially complete. Both regulators and industry are now in regular discussions on the future development of Open Banking. Regulators see the competition benefits to enabling account to account payments as a credible alternative to card payments. Industry sees the potential commercial incentives to developing Open Banking APIs further. Open Banking payments are now considered the main methodology for enabling account to account payments to be used as an alternative to card-not-present transactions and variable recurring payments (using Open Banking APIs) as an alternative to direct debits and continuous payment authorities on cards.
The focus now is on how to build trust, so users choose to use Open Banking payments as a credible alternative to traditional payment methodologies. We await the outcome of the Joint Regulatory Oversight Committee (JROC) working groups to pave the way for how Open Banking will be regulated and developed in the future, who will oversee this activity and what enhancements / developments will take place to continue to Open Banking revolution in the UK.
CAVForth, the first registered bus service in the UK to use full sized autonomous buses, has recently commenced operations for passengers in Edinburgh. The AB1 services, operated by Stagecoach, covers a 14-mile route across the Forth Road Bridge, connecting Ferrytoll park-and-ride in Fife to Edinburgh Park station, with speeds of up to 50mph. According to Stagecoach, the AB1 service follows a frequent timetable and can accommodate around 10,000 passenger journeys per week. Each autonomous bus will have two members of staff on board: a Safety Driver in the driver’s seat to oversee the technology, and a ‘Bus Captain’ to handle tickets and answer customers questions.
As stated by Alexander Dennis, the Operation of Stagecoach’s new AB1 route is supported by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles until 2025. Afterward, patronage will be reviewed, and a decision will be made on whether to continue offering the service on a commercial basis. The Project is a partnership involving Stagecoach, Fusion Processing, Alexander Dennis, Transport Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Bristol Robotics Lab & the University of the West of England.
Furthermore, a follow-on project, CAVForth2, is currently under development and aims to extend the existing route to a 19-mile journey from Edinburgh to the Dunfermline city centre in 2024.
So, what does this mean?
This represents another advance in trials of autonomous vehicles in the UK. The use of autonomous buses could revolutionise the sector by enabling significant efficiencies.
However, progress of the autonomous vehicles industry in the UK is currently being held back by the lack of appropriate legislation, despite consultations by both the Law Commission and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in recent years.
As the technology continues to develop, it is important that the UK Government begins the process of adopting new legislation to better reflect the technology behind autonomous vehicles and to enable more widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles on the UK's roads.
Further to our report on the authority's interim findings in Technol-AG's June edition, Ofcom has now confirmed its referral of the public cloud infrastructure market to the CMA for in-depth investigation. In its final statement, Ofcom found that the market may have features that restrict competition and lead to poorer outcomes for UK customers. In particular, there is high market concentration and business practices such as egress fees, committed spend discounts and interoperability restrictions might limit existing customers' ability to switch providers or spread their cloud needs across more than one provider.
As it awaits its future regulatory powers in digital markets (likely to be effective later in 2024 after the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill receives Royal Assent), the CMA has opened a market investigation under its current powers. The CMA has 18 months – until 4 April 2025 – to issue its final report and identify any appropriate remedies.
We recently prepared a briefing setting out what you need to know, what will happen next in the procedure and how you can get involved in the CMA's in-depth investigation if you have a stake in shaping the debate and its outcomes. You can access the briefing here.
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