OFT Procedural Adjudicator Trial Commences

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The OFT has published further information on the Procedural Adjudicator's processes in Competition Act 1998 ('CA98') cases as the trial of the new role commences on 21 March 2011.

On 2 March 2011 the OFT announced plans for a one year pilot to enable parties under investigation to ask the Procedural Adjudicator to review decisions on procedural issues. The Adjudicator will be able to review decisions including deadlines imposed on parties, requests for confidentiality redactions at the access to file and Statement of Objections stages or in a final decision, and requests for disclosure or non-disclosure of certain documents at access to file stage.

The trial follows consultations with businesses and advisers which highlighted the absence of an efficient process to deal with disputes arising on procedural issues which could not be resolved with the Senior Responsible Officer ('SRO'). The previous perception was that the only option available was for parties to apply for judicial review. The consultation also assessed a need to speed up proceedings to reduce delays.

Many called for the introduction of an EU style Hearing Officer role in CA98 investigations and the OFT therefore considered a mechanism which could be introduced without legislation to assist in the swift resolution of procedural disputes.

The Procedural Adjudicator role will only apply to cases in the situation where the OFT has decided to open a formal investigation under the CA98 and where there is a request from a party to the investigation, and only after the party has been unable to resolve the dispute with the SRO. The role of the Procedural Adjudicator will not prejudice a party's rights to apply for a judicial review or in any appeal to the CAT.

Please see full Alert below for further information.

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