HomeInsightsCompetition and Markets Authority (“CMA”): UK Government publishes strategic steer

The CMA is the UK regulator responsible for tackling anti-competitive behaviour and unfair commercial practices.  Following a consultation in May 2023, the Department for Business and Trade has published a document setting out the issues the Government expects the CMA to consider when setting its strategy and when making decisions on where to focus and prioritise its finite resources.  When passed, the new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill will address some of the challenges the Government believes the UK currently faces, such as the domination of some markets by a small number of companies (leading to higher prices for consumers or essential services). In exercising its powers under the Bill, the paper states that the CMA should focus on outcomes that help consumers and businesses meet the cost-of-living challenges whilst also boosting sustainable growth and productivity, promoting resilience, and maintaining and enhancing the UK’s position as a leading global destination for investment. The Government expects the CMA to deliver direct economic benefits to consumers of at least 10 times its relevant costs. The key expectations are outlined below.

The CMA should maximise the opportunities for the UK arising from the growth of the digital economy enabling, for example, small businesses and start-ups to invest, thrive and grow, and prioritising competition in the growing market for sustainable products and in markets where consumers spend large proportions of their income. On the consumer protection side, the CMA should, amongst other things, raise awareness of the rights of businesses and consumers and how to seek redress.

The CMA should minimise burdens on business engaging with the CMA, delivering its outcomes as quickly as possible and taking a proportionate approach to interventions. To achieve this, and to reduce uncertainty for business, the Government is proposing to introduce, via the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill, a statutory duty of expedition in relation to the CMA’s competition and consumer functions, requiring the CMA to make decisions and take action “as soon as reasonably practicable” (current wording in draft Bill). The CMA should also address cross-border concerns, ensure effective coordination of regulatory action, and influence other regulators to follow the UK model of proportionate regulation.

The Paper suggests that the CMA has 90 days to respond to these recommendations, but with a presumption that the Government will accept the CMA’s response unless there are strong policy reasons not to do so.

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