As mentioned in our Ads & Brands Law Digest: May 2019, the Information Commissioner’s Office has launched a consultation on Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services.

The draft Code is extremely controversial in its current draft and is likely to have a significant effect on the ad revenue that can be generated by information society service providers.

First of all, its scope is very wide and essentially if you are unsure whether your online service comes within the scope of the Code, it probably does.

The Code then requires an assessment of whether the online service is ‘likely to be accessed by children.’ This test is as vague as it sounds, and again if you are unsure of whether your online service will be caught, it probably will.

Where the Code is applicable, online services must apply the 16 standards of age-appropriate design.

How will this affect the ad revenue of online services? Essentially, unless you are able to verify that an individual is not a minor, using ‘robust age-verification mechanisms’, you must treat all users as minors and ensure that all content on the site is age-appropriate. This means restricting commercial advertising on online services for all users, potentially excluding advertising for alcohol, gambling and HFSS food and drinks, resulting in severe financial consequences for consumer sites which are predominantly ad funded.

Consultation on the code ends to today, and we anticipate there will be a very different version of the Code once all the feedback has been taken on board. Watch this space.