Under the concurrency arrangements, in a regulated sector both the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the relevant sector regulator have powers to apply aspects of competition law, in particular the power to enforce the UK and EU prohibitions on anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominance, and the power to refer a market for detailed investigation by members of the CMA panel.
When the CMA started work on 1 April 2014, the newly established concurrency arrangements also came into force, designed to strengthen co-operation between the CMA and sector regulators and reflecting the government’s desire to see sectoral regulators make greater use of their competition powers. Having produced an initial ‘baseline’ concurrency report on the CMA’s first day of operation, the CMA is now held accountable for these arrangements and required by law to publish an annual assessment on how they are progressing.
The report outlines improvements to concurrency working during the past year – such as closer working with sectoral regulators, the establishment of the UK Competition Network (UKCN) and the setting-up of a dedicated Sector Regulation Unit within the CMA. It also details significant investigations that have started in the regulated sectors during the past 12 months.
Alex Chisholm, CMA Chief Executive, said:
As this report shows, the past year has seen a positive start with important building blocks put in place for more effective use of competition in the regulated sectors. We have seen good and productive co-operation between the CMA and individual sector regulators, and the UK Competition Network is also working well in bringing organisations together and driving a proactive agenda.
Major market studies into energy and banking have seen us work alongside Ofgem and the Financial Conduct Authority respectively, leading to market investigations in both these areas. The past year has also seen a marked increase in the amount of competition enforcement activity in these sectors.
Although these are early days for these new arrangements, it’s certainly an encouraging start as we seek to encourage competition and help markets work better in these sectors. As with any market we look at, we aim to promote competition to benefit consumers through downward pressure on prices and providing a spur to improve quality and innovation.
There remains much to be done but – working with the regulators – we are taking steps in the right direction.
Further information on concurrency can be found in the UKCN’s statement of intent, and the Baseline annual report on concurrency 2014.