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Promoting Competition: the CMA’s update on our work

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Alex on roof

Concluding our second year as a new department, we’ve been able to benefit from the groundwork laid last year to create a strong organisational capacity and a targeted project portfolio.

So how can we measure the difference we’ve made?  Here are a few figures I can offer up.

In our first 2 years we’ve achieved the following:

  • Delivered over £1 billion of direct financial benefit for consumers.
  • Reviewed more than 140 mergers and found competition concerns in 29 mergers.
  • Concluded market studies and market investigations which affect millions of people across the UK, and opened new ones in markets with a combined annual turnover of over £80 billion.
  • Conducted appeals on decisions for regulated services important to consumers across the UK.
  • Completed competition and consumer enforcement investigations leading to changes in business practices.

Improved awareness of competition and consumer law and issued fines in excess of £48 million.

Pushing ahead with enforcement

Since the last promoting competition bulletin, we’ve pushed ahead with our existing enforcement cases and exceeded our Annual Plan commitments by opening 13 new consumer and competition enforcement cases in 2015/16. We’ve reached good outcomes in 2 cartel investigations in the construction and supply industry; securing a guilty plea to the criminal cartel offence in one case and securing fines and admission of infringement in a separate civil cartel case.

We’ve also issued our biggest fine so far – £45 million – against 3 pharmaceutical companies in the ‘pay for delay’ case. And in a series of inter-related cases, the CMA has secured changes to the important ‘new economy’ sector of online reviews, by tackling fake reviews, unlabelled endorsements and suppression of negative reviews.

Our markets work so far

We’ve reached some important milestones in our market investigations, most recently publishing our provisional decision on remedies in our energy investigation. The independent inquiry group has developed a comprehensive set of reforms which will help to transform the energy sector so that all customers benefit. I look forward to our banking market investigation reaching this same milestone in the summer.

Another big markets project is our review of competition in passenger rail in Great Britain.  Our study has shown clear benefits from a move to increase on-rail competition, whereby other operators run competing services against existing franchise operators. This project is a good example of how we try to influence other parts of government, to revise existing policy frameworks and create new scope for beneficial competition.

Looking ahead

In our latest Annual Plan, we committed to place even greater emphasis on enforcement of the law.  We plan to carry out more cases, more quickly and with more impact.  And we will sacrifice neither our professional standards, nor our rigour nor our fairness to do so.

With another busy period ahead of us, I look forward to the interim report of our market study into the supply of legal services in England and Wales, which we launched in January. This is a £30 billion market which at some point in our personal and working lives affects every one of us. It’s important that we look at the long-standing concerns about the affordability of legal services and standards of service and, if necessary, take steps to improve customer outcomes and encourage more innovation and rivalry between providers.

This year we’re focusing on finishing what we started to make a real difference to the way markets work and how consumers can benefit from this. This means successfully concluding our current market investigations and boosting competition in the energy and retail banking sectors through the swift and effective implementation of remedies. It also means continuing to improve the competition regime, so that it is as efficient, even-handed and effective as it can be.

Keep up to date with our work, or get in touch through our homepage, Twitter @CMAgovuk or our LinkedIn pages.

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