Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill

Written evidence submitted by Paramount on the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill; submission to the Bill Committee (DMCCB41)

Paramount welcome the opportunity to provide written evidence to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill. Our comments relate to Part 4 of the proposed Bill.


Paramount supports the central aim of the Digital Markets, Consumer and Competition Bill. Legislation to protect consumers must keep pace with changing customer behaviour. However, current drafting of the Bill risks impacting VOD services like Paramount+.

§ The proposed cooling off period and cancellation rules, whilst well-intentioned, undermine Paramount+ and other subscription services’ models by creating windows where consumers are able to consume content without fair payment;

§ more clarity is needed on the role of third-party traders, like app stores, who are also involved in managing consumer subscriptions; and

§ introducing excessive reminder obligations may be unwelcome and lead to information overload for consumers.

As the Bill moves forward, we hope that the Government will provide further clarity on how these aspects will work in practice and mitigate against unintended consequences for both businesses and consumers. We outline these concerns in more detail below and our comments are complementary to submissions received from the Motion Picture Associations and the Commercial Broadcaster and VOD Association.

Paramount in the UK

Paramount is a leading investor in the UK’s creative economy. We are incredibly proud of Paramount’s stewardship of public service broadcaster (PSB) Channel 5 which has undergone a creative transformation since our acquisition in 2014, and the UK is a home for Paramount Pictures’ international productions, most recently Mission: Impossible Day of Reckoning parts 1 and 2.

Last summer, we launched our new streaming platform Paramount+ in the UK. We are investing in exciting new UK originated content for the service. Our respect and understanding of British audiences carry through into our commissioning decisions for Paramount+. The first of our UK scripted commissions, The Ex Wife and The Flatshare, have contributed to making Paramount+ the fastest growing SVOD service in the UK. Even more exciting UK produced content will be arriving on the service in the UK and globally soon, including No Escape, Doll Factory, The Killing Kind and Sexy Beast. Our upcoming Paramount+ dramatisation of A Gentleman in Moscow starring Ewan McGregor is currently filming in Manchester. We are proud to be investing significantly in the UK’s world beating production sector and to be giving British creativity a global platform.

As well as providing audiences with a strong content offer, the continued growth of Paramount+ depends on making sure consumers trust us. We aim to apply fair and transparent subscription practices for consumers signing up to the service, including in relation to how and when we communicate with our customers about their subscriptions. Our business practices are under constant review to ensure that we offer the best service possible to consumers.

Cooling Off Rights

Paramount+ is built on a subscription-based model. Consumers currently have the choice of subscribing for one month or one year at a time and from the point of subscription have access to the full Paramount+ library of content to enjoy. Revenue from subscriptions is then reinvested in the production of new content, allowing us to further extend the offer for consumers. The Bill proposes a 14-day ‘initial’ cooling off period and a 14-day ‘renewal’ cooling off period meaning a subscriber can cancel and expect a full refund in this window.

Under current legislation, so called ‘cooling off’ rights apply only at the point of subscription and can be waived by the consumer in exchange for the delivery of digital content. This waiver reflects the nature of digital content and the fact that consumers signing up to VOD services like Paramount+ have immediate access to the programming they want to watch. As currently drafted, the Bill does not retain this waiver provision, nor provide any clarification whether there are circumstances under which cooling off rights may be lost or waived.

We are very concerned about the impact that this may have on our business. Because customers have instant access to all series and films on our service, this opens a loophole that would allow dishonest consumers to ‘binge watch’ a hit series or film, cancel their membership and get a refund. For example, in the Bill’s current form, someone could sign up to Paramount+ to watch iconic movies such as Top Gun Maverick and then immediately cancel with no financial payment.

In addition, as presently drafted in the Bill this would apply to each new subscription meaning customers could cancel and get a refund repeatedly, essentially giving them full access to our library of content for free on an indefinite basis. Whilst secondary legislation may permit partial refunds, we anticipate this would still allow individuals to watch significant amounts of content at vastly reduced cost compared to those subscribers acting in good faith.

The likely results appear to go against the spirit of what the Bill aims to achieve. We therefore encourage the Government to clarify how these cooling-off rights provisions can be improved to address the concerns of digital content services.

Wider concerns

Whilst our primary concern about the Bill relates to the likely negative consequences of removing the existing cooling off rights waiver for digital content, we also have some wider concerns which we believe are worth addressing throughout the Bill’s passage in Parliament:

Third Party Providers: As well as being able to subscribe to Paramount+ directly, consumers can also subscribe indirectly via app stores on their smart TVs and mobile devices. However, the Bill currently assumes, when assessing who is in scope of regulation, that the entire end-to-end subscription flow is within the sole control of the owner of the service. The Bill fails to take in to account the significant part played by third-party providers in the streaming ecosystem and the relationship they have with consumers. Further clarification will be needed to ensure both app stores and developers know who is obligated to support the requirements of the Bill.

Reminder Notifications: From our experience, consumers do not like to be bombarded with messages. With this in mind, we endeavour to strike the right balance with the number of emails about our services and content that we send them. This helps to avoid information overload and make sure that important emails – like changes of terms or of prices - that should be seen don’t go straight to the bin or treated as spam by the customer’s email server. Whilst it seems reasonable that a consumer should be effectively informed when a yearly subscription is nearing its end, we question the usefulness of the Bill requiring multiple reminders ahead of the annual renewal and, the right to cooling off immediately following this date.


It’s clear that a strong consumer protection framework is key to preventing unfair practices and ensuring fair competition in the online space. However as noted above we are concerned that the Bill as currently written would have some inadvertent negative impacts on both consumers and providers of VOD services like Paramount+. We look forward to working with Members across Parliament to close any legislative loopholes contained in the Bill that may undermine our investments in UK content and creativity.

June 2023


Prepared 27th June 2023