Friday, 26 April 2013

First thoughts on the Competition and Markets Authority

I attended the Competition Law Association's annual Burrell lecture a couple of days ago. The lecture was given by Alex Chisholm, the chief executive designate of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and will be published on the CLA's website in due course. In advance of that, it is worth giving some brief impressions. The first was that this was a cautious start. I was going to say like a typical civil servant, but typical UK civil servants don't have an MBA from INSEAD, senior level business experience and running the Irish communications regulator on their cvs. A cautious approach is not a bad thing, especially when you have only been in post for a few weeks. Secondly, he seemed to say that there would be a step up in the application of competition in regulated sectors of the economy, for example, energy. This would require effective coordination between the CMA and the sector regulators. Quite how this is reconciled with the CMA's role as an appeal body for price control issues is a good question. Thirdly, there was much more discussion of the role of the CMA in enforcing consumer law than I had expected, which may be just my own misunderstanding of the CMA's role going forward, but it highlighted the continuing issue of coordinating competition and consumer policy. Fourthly, he seemed happy with the OFT's recent procedural innovations and hinted, intriguingly, that the CMA would consider whether there was a role for its panellists in enforcement decisions after a statement of objections was issued. The final point was that there was a lot of work to be done to get the CMA fully functional for April 2014 and the plan was that consultations on CMA procedures would start sometime in July – just early enough to ruin someone's holiday!

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