The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today published a second set of guidance documents providing clarity on how the organisation will go about its work. These set out procedures the CMA will follow when investigating and enforcing competition law, including the use of new interview powers; and also details on how the CMA will target consumer enforcement action at markets where wide-ranging changes can be secured.
The CMA has also today announced Frances Barr’s appointment as Procedural Officer. Frances is currently the OFT’s General Counsel. She will become responsible for considering disputes on certain procedural issues for the CMA when it opens for business on April 1, 2014 and will also chair oral hearings with parties in Competition Act 1998 investigations.
Today’s documents follow publication in January of guidance relating to the CMA’s other functions, and have been published following careful consideration of responses received during a consultation. This led to a number of changes, including further clarification of how the CMA will work, including new aspects of Competition Act enforcement work such as its powers to require individuals to answer questions.
Today’s final guidance documents include an outline of how the CMA will use its consumer powers to tackle, in particular, market wide consumer problems or issues which affect consumers’ ability to make choices. The Consumer Protection guidance also outlines how the CMA will work with a range of partners, including Trading Standards Services, to protect UK consumers. The CMA’s commitment to such partnership working also underpins the Regulated Industries guidance, which highlights how the CMA will interact with the sectoral regulators in competition cases and how it will use its competition case allocation powers in regulated sectors.
The Procedural Officer role provides a route for parties involved in Competition Act, market or merger investigations being conducted by the CMA to raise certain procedural issues in the investigation, and for these to be resolved in a swift, efficient and cost effective way. The Procedural Officer is independent from CMA case teams.
The guidance documents published today are:
The CMA has also published a summary of responses to the consultation which includes a full list of existing Office of Fair Trading and Competition Commission guidance and related documents that the CMA has adopted for its continued use.
Alex Chisholm, CMA Chief Executive, said:
‘Today’s second tranche of guidance documents provides businesses with further clarity on important aspects of the CMA’s functions, including a number of the new powers which the CMA will have. We also reaffirm our commitment to active use of our consumer powers where they will have maximum impact and serve the best interests of consumers. The extensive guidance we now have in place across all our functions provides a strong foundation to ensure that the new competition landscape hits the ground running.
‘The role of the Procedural Officer is designed to ensure our investigations can operate effectively and efficiently and demonstrates our commitment to openness and accountability. This will benefit both the CMA and businesses. I am delighted that we have someone of Frances’s calibre and experience in such an important post.’
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Media enquiries to be directed to Russell Guthrie on 020 7211 8899 or Rory Taylor on 020 7271 0242.
On 1 April 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will become the UK’s lead competition and consumer body. The CMA will bring together the existing competition and certain consumer protection functions of the Office of Fair Trading and the responsibilities of the Competition Commission, as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
Frances Barr is the General Counsel at the Office of Fair Trading. Previously, she has held a variety of legal, policy and project delivery roles at the OFT. She has worked on secondments at the Competition Commission and also at the then Department of Trade and Industry. Frances began her career in private practice at Slaughter and May, working in London and Brussels.
The updated Quick Guide to UK Merger Assessment was produced in response to requests from respondents to the CMA’s consultation on it merger control guidance, published in January. It is aimed principally at those in business, and is intended to provide a concise, user-friendly overview of the key aspects of the procedures and substantive considerations applicable to the CMA’s review of mergers.
On January 10 2014, the CMA published guidance on its approach to other CMA functions and powers not covered by the guidance published today, including its mergers and markets study and investigations work.
The Procedural Officer’s role in Competition Act investigations is to decide on disputes about CMA case team decisions on certain significant procedural issues, (for example deadlines for parties’ submission of information and the confidentiality of information that the CMA proposes to disclose or publish). The Procedural Officer also chairs oral hearings with parties in those investigations and reports on procedural issues to the relevant decision-maker(s) following such oral hearing(s). Further detail on the Procedural Officer’s role and procedures in Competition Act investigations can be found in the CMA’s Competition Act 1998 Guidance published today.
In relation to the CMA’s mergers and markets functions, the Procedural Officer provides a supplementary mechanism for resolving disputes relating to the confidentiality of information proposed to be published by the CMA in the course of its investigations. The procedure followed by the Procedural Officer in these investigations will be flexible, and will be tailored to the nature of the dispute at hand, and in particular, to any specific timing constraints to which the CMA’s investigation is subject.
The CMA will keep the scope of the Procedural Officer role under review, and will use its experience of the operation of the role in practice to consider how it could be developed in future.