To kick start 2015, in this post we analyse recent trends to assess any similarities in enforcement priorities between regulators in the UK and Australia. Our UK team has recently reported on the forecast in the UK for 2015/2016, based on the Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) draft annual plan. It is clear that both the CMA and ACCC are bringing in the New Year with similar resolutions geared towards enhancing competition policy.

CMA

The CMA has identified 6 strategic work areas which it considers to pose risks and challenges to markets:

  1. Online and the digital economy;
  2. Technology and emerging sectors;
  3. Regulated sectors and infrastructure markets;
  4. Public services markets;
  5. Sectors important to growth and economic recovery; and
  6. Issues that may inhibit consumers’ ability to access markets and may affect consumers’ decision-making.

These focus areas will guide the CMA’s enforcement priorities for the year ahead. Furthermore, pursuing cartel actions remains a priority with increased investment to fund frontline resources.

ACCC

While the ACCC is yet to release its 2015 Compliance and Enforcement Policy, there are similarities with its 2014 policy (available here), which were also emphasised in Chairman Rod Sims’ address to the CEDA conference in February 2014 and his subsequent speeches throughout 2014, which identify the following areas as priorities for enforcement:

  • telecommunications and energy sectors;
  • infrastructure markets; and
  • consumer issues in the online marketplace.

Notable priorities for the ACCC in 2015 have recently been reported to include the targeted monitoring of:

  • misconduct by big businesses in dealings with suppliers, using the $10 million court-ordered penalty handed down on 22 December 2014 in the grocery sector as a benchmark case;
  • illegal conduct by unions – in December we reported on the case against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union which is being used to encourage industry leaders to speak out about union misconduct;
  • the telecommunications sector;
  • petrol suppliers and prices; and
  • State Government privatisations.

The similarities between enforcement priorities in the UK and Australia are a reflection of the trend of competition enforcement agencies increasingly aligning and assisting each other in their efforts to protect the consumer through international cooperation. This is especially the case with global cartel enforcement actions, which are priorities for both regulators.

Whilst we eagerly await the ACCC’s 2015 Compliance and Enforcement Policy, the UK priorities can be found here in the CMA’s draft annual plan for 2015 to 2016.