Last orders at the OFT…..


Of particular interest to us UK based competition lawyers, today is the last day of trading for the UK’s Office of Fair Trading.

On Tuesday, 1 April 2014, the OFT is no longer and its powers (along with those of the UK’s Competition Commission) are officially transferred to the newly constituted Competition and Markets Authority (‘CMA’).

Apart from a change of address (the UK competition regulator is moving a stone’s throw north from just off Fleet Street to Southampton Row) and an efficiency gain of a reduction in a five to three lettered acronym (OTF + CC → CMA), it will be business more or less as normal.

The CMA is going to have its hands full given a likely investigation into the UK energy sector, and the OFT’s and CC’s existing workload will of course transfer across. The remaining competition related provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (‘ERRA’) also come into force on 1 April 2014, which include additional powers for the CMA over and above previous powers vested in the OFT.

The CMA is under a considerable amount of political pressure to perform. Let’s hope that the merger of the two current institutions does result in the increase in efficiencies and reduction of costs expected by the UK Government. Two stated areas of interest for the CMA on which we will be keeping a particularly close eye are public markets (such as developments further to the OFT’s recent market study into the public sector ICT sector) and online business models (see for example our previous post here on the recent application of competition law to online distribution models by several national competition bodies). Watch this space.

Helen Hopson