Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Will this affect food companies? 

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill - Parliamentary Bills - UK Parliament will make major changes to the way consumer protection law is enforced. The Bill will provide for the regulation of competition in digital markets; to amend the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2002 and to make other provision about competition law; also to make further provision relating to the protection of consumer rights.

The reforms will impact almost any business selling to consumers, including those in the food and drink sector. While the upfront regulation of digital markets has been the main headline, some fundamental changes will also apply in the consumer protection sphere, combined with enhanced powers to investigate companies that breach competition law for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The Bill is expected to come into force in the second half of 2024. 

Consumer Protection Aspects

Under the current regime, the CMA can only enforce consumer protection indirectly – by threatening or making a Court application, the new rules will allow the CMA to enforce consumer laws directly. Specifically, at the end of investigations, the CMA will be able to issue infringement notices, impose sanctions and negotiate consumer compensation. Sanctions for consumer law breaches will be subject to a maximum fine of up to 10% of global annual turnover for companies and up to £300,000 for individuals.

Additionally, the existing list of unfair commercial practices will be consolidated and new offences and duties in relation to subscription contracts, savings schemes and fake reviews added. The Secretary of State will also have the power to add more practices to the list in future, to ensure the law keeps up with new market developments.  This will therefore directly apply the Consumer Rights Act 2015, the Consumer Credit Act 1974, and the unfair commercial practices currently contained in the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

What can food companies do now?

It is recommended that a review is taken of the consumer protection rules relevant to your particular sector and any consumer contracts and applicable T&Cs – in particular, any subscription provisions and ADR mechanisms. Additionally, consider your risk management, mitigation, consumer facing training, processes etc.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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