The Competition and Markets Authority Annual Plan 2016/2017
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) very recently revealed its priorities for 2016/17 (Competition and Markets Authority Annual Plan 2016/17).
According to the CMA, it has already, among others, delivered over £1 billion of direct financial benefit for consumers; reviewed more than 140 mergers (at least 28 with significant competition issues); opened new ones in markets with a combined annual turnover of over £80 billion; and imposed fines in excess of £45 million.
The CMA had previously identified six thematic areas, all of which remain significant for the CMA into 2016/17. These are: Consumers’ access to markets and barriers to decision-making, Online and digital markets, Technology and emerging sectors, Regulated sectors and infrastructure markets, Markets for public services, and Sectors that are important to economic growth.
The CMA examines several key areas of its work and set its priorities. Regarding enforcement, in 2016/17, the CMA will launch as many new civil competition enforcement investigations as reasonably possible, with four as a minimum; open new criminal investigations and pursue prosecutions as appropriate; improve processes and its ways of working to decrease the time taken to conclude competition enforcement investigations against a rolling three-year average benchmark; launch as many consumer cases as possible, with three as a minimum; make appropriate use of advisory and warning letters in the case of suspected breaches of competition law, thus encouraging compliance without the need for a full formal investigation, and reinforcing this by publicising the broad facts where appropriate; and conclude our consumer enforcement cases effectively either by agreement or by proceeding to litigation, with the majority to be concluded within 18 months of being publicly opened (p. 12).
Regarding mergers, the CMA will notably, following the conclusion of the energy and retail banking market investigations, commence a review of how we carry out market investigations; launch two to four new markets projects in the course of this year, including one on the subject of price comparison websites; seek to clear at least 70% of merger cases that are less complex (and therefore do not require an issues meeting and case review meeting) within 35 working days; launch a review of 30 to 40 older, mostly behavioural, merger remedies; seek to implement phase 2 merger and market investigation remedies without the need for an extension to the statutory deadline in at least 70% of cases, as measured as a three-year average of all relevant merger and markets cases (p. 16-17).
Regarding partnership and advocacy (p.23), the CMA will, in particular, conclude its term as current President of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network, continue to play a leading role in the development of consumer protection internationally, particularly in Europe (subject to the Brexit impact); publish two economic research projects, including one on the indirect benefits of competition policy to the economy and consumers, and two evaluations of the impact of completed work; and make recommendations to the government on the impact of policy frameworks on competition in at least two sectors, for example (p. 22) on the regulation of higher education, the use of public sector information, and detecting bid-rigging in public procurement.
(Altalex, 2 May 2016. Article by Emmanuel Guinchard)