38.The purpose of these draft Regulations, laid by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is to revoke the EU’s Geo-Blocking Regulation (“the EU Regulation”) as retained in UK law and the Geo-Blocking (Enforcement) Regulations 2018 (“the 2018 Regulations”), which introduced enforcement provisions as required under the EU Regulation and on which the Sub-Committee reported. The Department explains that ‘geo-blocking’ is the term used to describe traders discriminating against customers on the basis of the customer’s nationality or location, for example by automatically re-directing customers to country-specific versions of their website with different terms and conditions. BEIS says that while the EU Regulation prohibits certain forms of geo-blocking, the current reciprocal arrangements would not function if the UK left the EU without a deal: EU traders would not be obliged to treat UK customers in line with the EU Regulation, there would be no requirement on EU regulators to bring actions against businesses through EU mechanisms for cross-border cooperation, and UK civil and commercial judgments would no longer be enforced automatically in the courts of EU member states. BEIS highlights that, in contrast, UK businesses would continue to have obligations to EU customers and that these draft Regulations aim to prevent such asymmetrical arrangements in the EU’s favour. The Department expects the impact of revoking the 2018 Regulations to be insignificant, as the current obligations have only been in place for around four months. BEIS estimates that there will be one-off familiarisation costs of less than £1.2 million for some 75,000 businesses that will be affected by the changes.
39.The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (“the 2017 Act”) establishes the Office for Students (OfS) as the new regulator for English higher education (HE) providers. Since its creation on 1 January 2018, the OfS has been fully funded by the government for a transitional period. This instrument makes provision under the 2017 Act in relation to the fees which the OfS may charge to HE providers for their registration in the register of English HE providers established under that Act. These Regulations will enable the OfS to fund the majority of its operating costs using income from registration fees, thereby shifting most of the cost of regulation on to the sector from 1 August 2019, when the new regulatory regime will become fully operational. The fee model set out in this instrument will be reviewed after two years, during academic year 2021-22. The registration fees in this instrument are set in relation to the size of a provider, as calculated by reference to the full-time equivalent number of HE students. The Department for Education states that the Regulations will allow for the OfS to charge reduced fees to new institutions and also that a Micro Entity Exemption has been devised. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) states that: “The government will provide funding for these reductions and exemption in 2019/20, while considering how the OfS can move to a full cost recovery basis”. The EM also references a consultation on OfS Monetary Penalties which included a question on what should happen in the case of late payment of registration fees. The Department states that: “There was no objection to the OfS charging interest on late fees of 5% above the base rate, as this instrument stipulates”.
40.This instrument is the second of two instruments intended to supersede the draft Trade etc. in Dual-Use Items, Firearms and Torture etc. Goods (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 on which the Sub-Committee reported in its 18th Report and which has been withdrawn by the Department for International Trade.
13 Regulation (EU).
14 , Session 2017–19, (HL Paper 239).
15 , Session 2017-19 (HL Paper 298).