HomeInsightsUK Competition and Markets Authority publishes Annual Plan

The Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has released its Annual Plan for 2024/25, setting out its near-term areas of focus for the next 12 months. The report builds upon its wider strategic approach announced in its 2023/24 Annual Plan, and looks forward to the introduction of new statutory powers and responsibilities granted to the CMA under the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill currently passing through the legislative process (see Wiggin updates here and here). If enacted, the Bill will, in the words of the CMA, mark a “step-change in [its] work”, granting it powers to regulate digital markets, make decisions about when consumer law has been broken without going to court, and impose significant financial penalties on businesses responsible for those breaches.

In addition to continuing to focus on road fuel, accommodation, sustainable products and services, and UK labour markets, the CMA has added a specific reference to cloud services, after a referral of the market by Ofcom prompted an in-depth market investigation into the supply of public cloud infrastructure services last year (as we commented upon here and here). The CMA describes this area as a ”key focus” in the year ahead given that it underpins so many online services, and commits to “enable innovating business to access digital markets such as cloud services, e-commerce and digital advertising”.

The Annual Plan also mentions the CMA’s intention to broaden its work into investigating misleading pricing, and particularly how online environments affect the decision-making and actions of consumers (so-called online choice architecture), following its work into certain websites using countdown timers or claiming that products were in high demand. Finally, the development and deployment of AI foundation models are singled out as being a particular area of focus, with the CMA expressing a desire to “encourage effective competition and consumer protection” in these emergent markets.

Commenting on the Annual Plan, Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “The coming year will be a unique one in the CMA’s history as we reach our ten-year anniversary. We expect to take on new powers as part of the DMCC Bill, enabling us to inject much needed competition into digital markets and to protect consumers more effectively than ever before. We have been preparing for several years to make sure we can hit the ground running and we are more committed than ever to making a real impact for people, businesses, and the UK economy across all areas of our work”.

To read the Annual Plan in full, click here.