The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently published the findings of research it commissioned to examine UK businesses’ understanding of competition law.  The aim of the research was to gauge businesses’ awareness of competition law, their understanding of anti-competitive behaviours and the resulting penalties, businesses’ preferred sources of information about compliance, and the awareness of the CMA and what it does.

A link to the report can be found here.  Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • Indicators and risks of anti-competitive behaviour: 73 percent of businesses monitor prices of competitors.  Price monitoring is most likely by large businesses and in the agricultural, wholesale, retail and transportation sectors.  Remarkably 7 percent of businesses interviewed stated that they contacted their competitors directly to find out their prices.
  • Awareness of competition law: business respondents expressed a greater concern with compliance with other regulations (such as health and safety law and employment law).  This perhaps explains the low understanding of the illegality of the following: resale price maintenance (29 percent), market-sharing (40 percent), and price-fixing (55 percent).
  • Awareness and understanding of CMA and its role: only 10 percent of businesses reported seeking information on competition law (rising to 52 percent for larger businesses).  The Internet was cited as the largest source of information.  Interestingly, 57 percent of businesses had not heard of the CMA (39 percent amongst large businesses) and only 2 percent felt they knew the CMA well.


Continue Reading UK Businesses’ Understanding of Competition Law

On 26 September 2014, the Competition & Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued its final order implementing changes to the UK’s statutory audit market (the “Final Order”). By way of background, this action represents the final step in a process which commenced in March 2011 when the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs urged the Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”), the CMA’s predecessor, to investigate the UK audit market. Following an initial investigation by the OFT, an in-depth analysis of the market by the Competition Commission (“CC”) – now also subsumed into the CMA – concluded that competition in the audit market was restricted by factors which inhibit companies from switching auditors.
Continue Reading The Competition & Markets Authority Imposes Changes to the UK’s Audit Market with Significant Implications for FTSE 350 Companies

Written Simon Harms and Stephen C. Tupper

Many in the shipping industry will recall the heated debates leading up the decision of the European Commission (the “Commission”) to repeal the block exemption for liner shipping conferences in 2008 (the “Repeal”), thereby opening the container trades to the same competition law enforcement regime that applies to other sectors of the wider economy.

Nearly three years on, shipping operators may have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about. What, if anything, had changed in practice? The answer, until very recently, was: not very much. Following the Repeal, the Commission did not appear particularly keen to pursue liner shipping. Shipping operators meanwhile – by and large – maintained, superficially at least, traditional operating models.

The cosy status quo, however, may be about to change: in May 2011, the Commission launched an investigation into the container liner shipping sector. Its focus is reportedly on agreements entered into after the Repeal came into force. The Commission’s investigation is at an early stage and it is yet to be seen whether it is “merely” conducting a temperature check which may result in “tweaking” such agreements or whether the investigation will develop into a full-scale cartel probe. The use of unannounced inspections – or “dawn raids” – at the premises of a number of key operators suggests the Commission is serious but much will depend on the quality of the evidence gathered.
Continue Reading EU Competition: liner shipping conferences back on the Commission’s radar

Written by Lisa Navarro

On 28 November 2012 the UK’s Home Office launched a consultation regarding proposals to deliver the Government’s policies aimed at cutting alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour. Rather than focus on the irresponsible drinkers, however, the proposals are firmly targeted at how, when, and for what price alcohol can, and should be, sold.

In particular, the consultation seeks views on the following proposals:

  • a ban on multi-buy promotions (e.g. buy-one-get-one-free) in shops and off-licences;
  • a review of the mandatory licensing conditions, to ensure that they are sufficiently targeting problems such as irresponsible promotions in pubs and clubs;
  • health as a new alcohol licensing objective for cumulative impacts so that licensing authorities can consider alcohol-related health harms when managing the problems relating to the number of premises in their area;
  • cutting red tape for responsible businesses to reduce the burden of regulation while maintaining the integrity of the licensing system; and
  • minimum unit pricing, with a recommended minimum price of 45 pence per alcoholic unit.
    Continue Reading Price Fixing in the UK Booze Market — the Government’s Solution to Binge Drinking

Written by Simon Harms and Stephen C. Tupper

On 25 October 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “CJEU”) handed down two judgments annulling fines first imposed on Solvay SA by the European Commission (the “Commission”) in 1990. Fingers crossed, these judgments conclude one of the longer-running sagas before the European courts.

Background

For the benefit of younger readers, an abridged account of Solvay’s unfortunate encounters with the Commission and the European judicature over the last 21 years is set out below:
Continue Reading The value of perseverance: ca. €23 million (plus interest and costs)