The report, which has been laid before parliament, looks back on the work the CMA carried out during 2016/17, and highlights the progress the organisation has made in the 3 years since it took on its role.
The CMA is determined to protect consumers from illegal anti-competitive practices and unfair trading. In 2016/17 it found that competition law had been broken in 9 investigations, with penalties of £100 million, including the biggest fine in the history of the UK competition regime. It also secured the UK regime’s first company director disqualification for breaking competition law, underlining that individuals must take personal responsibility for complying with competition law.
Through its consumer enforcement in the past year, the CMA has helped to ensure that people are not misled on price discounts when buying groceries and get a fair contract from their cloud storage provider.
In 2016/17, the CMA published final reports and implemented wide-ranging packages of remedies in 2 of the biggest market investigations ever undertaken by a UK competition authority, into the £10 billion energy sector and the £35 billion retail banking sector. Along with the legal services market study, which it concluded in December 2016, these whole-market reviews have laid the foundations for significant changes to these sectors to the benefit of households and businesses across the UK. It also recently published update reports in its 2 ongoing market studies, into care homes for the elderly in England and Wales and digital comparison tools.
The CMA is increasingly seeing the benefits of being a single organisation, following its creation through a merger of the Competition Commission and Office of Fair Trading. Streamlining merger control has enabled the CMA to operate with increased pace and to better target its interventions, which reduces the burden on business whilst still protecting consumers. High-profile mergers which the CMA investigated in 2016/17 include Ladbrokes/Coral, Intercontinental Exchange/Trayport and Acadia Healthcare Company/Priory Group.
The CMA has remained a strong voice for competition across the UK and overseas, advising and challenging policy-makers domestically and supporting the development of the competition and consumer regimes internationally. This year the CMA has successfully influenced UK government policy, including through formal recommendations on the draft Higher Education Bill, and has worked with devolved governments on a variety of issues.
The CMA has also today published its impact assessment, which says that work the CMA has carried out over the past 3 years is expected to deliver direct benefits to consumers of over £3 billion. For the third year running, the CMA has exceeded its target to achieve £10 of direct consumer benefit for every £1 it costs to run.
David Currie, CMA Chairman, said:
As we pass the important milestone of our first 3 years as the UK’s primary competition and consumer agency, I am pleased with our achievements to date. We have continued to make a real difference for consumers and businesses across the UK, to improve how we work and to build ever stronger partnerships at home and abroad.
We have successfully concluded our work in some of the biggest sectors of the UK economy this year, delivering tangible effects for consumers and protecting them from anti-competitive practices and unfair trading.
We are also realising the benefits of being a single, integrated competition and consumer body, increasing our impact and efficiency.
I don’t doubt the challenges ahead, with the need to ensure consumers, including the vulnerable, get a good deal in a rapidly evolving marketplace. We will remain active in the year ahead – enforcing the law, protecting consumers, preventing anti-competitive mergers and making markets work well for households and businesses right across the UK.