OFT/CC merger to create single competition authority

OFT/CC merger to create single competition authority


Author: Sarah Livestro

Following an extensive consultation exercise, BIS has announced that the OFT and the CC will merge to form a single UK competition authority.

The new Competition Markets Authority (CMA) will be charged with promoting 'effective competition in markets across the UK and for the benefit of consumers'.

It will be responsible for merger regulation, market investigations, cartel and other competition cases, plus a number of regulated utilities functions.

Aside from the merger of the OFT and the CC, many of the more radical possibilities for reform originally floated by the Government will not be pursued.

There will be no move to an adversarial competition system in which the CMA would have prosecuted antitrust cases before the Competition Appeal Tribunal instead of adopting its own infringement decisions.

The UK's unique voluntary merger filing system will be preserved, as the authorities shied away from implementing a mandatory system.

Although some of the more far-reaching proposals were discarded, the clear message from the Government is that more efficient procedures, coupled with some increased investigatory powers, should lead to the CMA undertaking a greater number of competition investigations.

This may mean increased exposure to risk for companies that breach competition law.

One interesting substantive change will be the removal of the 'dishonesty' requirement from the criminal cartel offence.

Commentators have suggested that the authorities have been reluctant to pursue prosecutions because of the difficulty of establishing that cartel participants acted dishonestly.

It remains to be seen whether the number of prosecutions will rise following the change.