On 14 June 2011 the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission (CC) each published their formal responses to the UK government’s consultation on reforms to the UK competition regime.
The OFT and the CC largely support the government’s objective of enhancing the UK’s competition regulation through measures which would include merging the CC and the competition responsibilities of the OFT into a single Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). However, they express concerns about some of the more ‘radical’ government proposals including the introduction of mandatory merger control. The OFT’s response outlines its preferred options for reform in relation to the creation of the CMA and reform of the markets, mergers and antitrust investigations procedures, the criminal cartel offence, concurrency of regulatory powers between the OFT and UK sector regulators, and the disclosure of information to overseas authorities. The CC’s response focuses on the CMA and the requirement for separation between first and second phase investigations in mergers and market investigations. The consultation and responses raise some important questions. However, one fundamental issue appears not to have been confronted head-on in the consultation, which is the question of whether the range of sweeping reforms actually depends on a merger between the OFT and the CC.
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