Energy price comparison websites: suspected anti-competitive agreements

The CMA investigated a suspected breach of competition law by some price comparison websites that offer energy tariff comparisons in relation to paid online search advertising, under Chapter I CA98 and/or Article 101 TFEU.

Case reference: 50332

Case timetable

Date Action
October 2016 Decision to close the investigation on administrative priority grounds
14 June 2016 Ofgem transferred the case to the CMA
October 2015 to May 2016 (Ofgem) Initial investigation: information gathering, including issuance of formal or informal information requests and parties’ responses
October 2015 Investigation opened by Ofgem

Change log

The following changes have been made to the case timetable since it was first published in June 2016:

Date of change Reason for change Change made to timetable
17 August 2016 Additional time to consider evidence Decision on whether to proceed with the investigation or to close the investigation extended by 2 months

Case closure statement and guidance on restrictions on bidding behaviour in paid online search advertising

6 October 2016: The CMA has closed its investigation into a suspected breach of competition law by some price comparison websites that offer energy tariff comparisons in relation to paid online search advertising on the grounds of administrative priorities.

The reasons for closing the investigation are set out in the CMA’s case closure statement. In order to provide general guidance to businesses and their advisers, the statement also notes that in some circumstances, agreements restricting bidding behaviour in paid online search advertising may raise competition concerns.

The CMA is also carrying out a market study into digital comparison tools, launched on 29 September 2016. This will be an opportunity for the CMA to explore further the nature of competition between price comparison websites and their relationship with service providers. Businesses are encouraged to contact the digital comparison tools market study team if they are aware of possible behaviour or agreements affecting the bidding behaviour of price comparison websites in paid online search advertising which may hamper effective competition.

Note

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) transferred the case to the CMA on 14 June 2016. The notice of transfer is available on Ofgem’s website.

Contacts

Assistant Project Director

Sophie Mitchell (020 3738 6905, sophie.mitchell@cma.gsi.gov.uk)

Project Director

Andrew Groves (020 3738 6927, andrew.groves@cma.gsi.gov.uk)

Senior Responsible Officer

Ann Pope (020 3738 6786, ann.pope@cma.gsi.gov.uk)

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