The UK’s new competition regime

Important changes to the UK’s competition law regime came into effect on 1 April 2014. This article highlights the principal changes of which businesses need to be aware.

We discuss the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA); the enforcement of competition law in regulated/utility sectors; the cartel offence, which carries personal liability for directors and employees; the merger regime; market investigations; and administrative penalties for failing to comply with a request from the CMA. Finally, we take a brief look at potential/impending changes in the sphere of competition litigation and regulatory appeals.

The major change is that the UK has a new competition law enforcement agency, the CMA. The CMA has assumed the competition law functions (and certain consumer law functions) of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission, both of which are now disbanded. The CMA has been explicitly created in order to ensure that there is more proactive and rigorous enforcement of competition law within the UK than before. It has more extensive powers than the OFT did, including enhanced compulsory interview powers, which may be used during a dawn raid (and dawn raids are not now limited to business premises but include private houses and vehicles), and a power to impose penalties on businesses and individuals, including current and former employees, that fail to co-operate with an investigation, e.g. by the late production of documents. Furthermore, the CMA will have an increased budget and resources to undertake more investigations each year, and will work closely in conjunction with sector regulators in the UK…

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