Press release

Funfair body alleged to have broken competition law

The CMA today alleged that rules enforced by the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain in the travelling fair sector breach competition law.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a statement of objections to the Guild alleging that some of its current rules protect existing Guild showmen from competition and reduce the potential for new attractions to join fairs. This, in turn, potentially limits the choice of millions of fair-goers and may also deprive them from access to improved rides and other attractions. Fair-goers may also be getting less value for money than if competition were unrestricted.

It alleges that the Guild’s rules restrict members, who make up 90% of the travelling fairs sector in the UK, which the CMA estimates is worth £100 million a year, from competing with one another to organise or attend fairs and also stop members from starting new fairs in competition with existing fairs.

The CMA is concerned that the rules may make it difficult for non-Guild members to attract amusements to their fairs and to put on anything but a small fair in competition with the Guild.

There is also potentially little incentive or ability for fair organisers, including local authorities, or amusement operators to improve what they offer or to set up new fairs, so that fair-goers across the UK potentially have less choice and access to fewer fairs than they might otherwise have.

In cases where local authorities do try to alter or improve a fair without the consent of the Guild, its members can boycott the whole fair as a result of the rules, as happened in Newcastle in 2013 which meant the Hoppings Fair did not go ahead leading to around half a million fair-goers who usually attend missing out.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director Antitrust, said:

These allegations concern the use of restrictive rules which could limit competition between funfairs and effectively prevent non-Guild members from being able to compete.

Fair-goers may lose out if new fairs can’t take place or if existing fairs are under less competitive pressure to provide different or new attractions.

These are provisional findings only and no conclusion can be drawn at this stage that there has been a breach of competition law. We will carefully consider any representations before deciding whether the law has been broken.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. For CMA updates, follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr, LinkedIn and like our Facebook page.
  2. The Competition Act 1998 prohibits agreements, practices and conduct that may have a damaging effect on competition in the UK. The Chapter I prohibition covers anti-competitive agreements, decisions by associations and concerted practices between businesses which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK and which may affect trade within the UK. Any business found to have infringed the Chapter I prohibition can be fined up to 10% of its annual worldwide group turnover.
  3. A statement of objections gives parties notice of a proposed infringement decision under the competition law prohibitions in the Competition Act 1998. It is a provisional decision only and does not necessarily lead to an infringement decision. Parties have the opportunity to make written and oral representations on the matters set out in the statement of objections. Any such representations will be considered by the CMA before any final decision is made. The final decision is taken by a 3-member case decision group, which is separate from the case investigation team and was not involved in the decision to issue the statement of objections.
  4. The statement of objections is addressed to the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain. The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain describes its purpose as being “to protect the interests of its members – travelling showmen who gain their livelihoods by attending funfairs”.
  5. The statement of objections will not be published. However, any person who wishes to comment on the CMA’s provisional findings, and who is in a position materially to assist the CMA in testing its factual, legal or economic arguments, may request a non-confidential version of the statement of objections by contacting George Brenton (george.brenton@cma.gsi.gov.uk) by 11 January 2017.
  6. The Guild has stated that “Virtually all travelling Funfairs – some 200 per week between Easter and Bonfire night – are operated by members of the Showmen’s Guild”. Some fairs in the UK attract over half a million fair-goers. It is estimated that the Guild has around 2,000 members that are active in putting on fairs.
  7. Information on this investigation can be found on the case page.
  8. For more information on how to comply with competition law see our guidance . The CMA has also produced a series of animated videos explaining the main principles of competition law and how they affect small businesses.
  9. The CMA has also created a form so anyone concerned about potential anti-competitive or market issues can raise an alert.
  10. The CMA currently has 13 Competition Act 1998 investigations open.
  11. Sign up to our email alerts to receive updates on Competition Act 1998 and civil cartels cases.
  12. Media enquiries should be directed to Simon Belgard (simon.belgard@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6472).
Published 21 December 2016