The OFT has opened a consultation on draft guidance that it has produced setting out how it conducts investigations into potential breaches of competition law. The guidance outlines the complete investigation process, sources of investigation, what the OFT does when it receives a complaint, the OFT’s powers of investigation (including the power to enter and search premises), how the OFT analyses and tests evidence, investigation outcomes and issuing provisional findings. The guidance also proposes new initiatives aimed at encouraging the submission of good quality complaints about suspected breaches of competition law. These initiatives include (subject to the co-operation of the complainant and the amount and quality of information available from the complainant) the OFT offering the opportunity to have informal discussions with potential complainants before they submit a substantial complaint and a commitment by the OFT to reach a decision on whether to formally open a case within four months of receiving a substantial complaint.

The aim of the guidance is to increase transparency about how the OFT handles all stages of it’s investigations, with the rationale that giving businesses and advisors better clarity about the investigation process will help the OFT to deliver investigations more quickly and efficiently.