OFT unveils decision-making changes ahead of CMA move

The OFT has announced a string of proposals that it hopes will make its decision-making more robust.

As the watchdog moves towards a merger with the Competition Commission to form the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it said the latest evolution of its guidance is a “stepping stone” towards the new regime.

In a bid to strengthen its decision making on the civil side, the OFT has suggested a number of tweaks to its processes. It will speed up investigations, aim to remove the perception of bias by decision makers and improve engagement with businesses.

The three key proposals to achieve this are to move to a panel of three decision makers who rule on any competition law breaches, rather than just a senior responsible officer running the whole investigation; to extend the trial of the procedural adjudicator role to quickly resolve disputes in investigation procedure; and to hold ‘state of play’ meetings where the parties being investigated can ask for updates and comment on proposed penalties.

OFT chairman Philip Collins said: “These proposals and enhancements are part of an ongoing process of further improving our Competition Act processes to make them more transparent and robust, while also ensuring investigations are carried out more quickly than in the past.

“We believe these measures will deliver improvements now, but are also important stepping stones towards the competition enforcement regime that will be transferred in due course to the proposed new Competition and Markets Authority.”