On March 16, 2011, the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills published its long-awaited consultation paper on options for reforming the UK competition regime. The most high profile aspects of this are:
- A proposal to merge the competition functions of the OFT and the CC to create a single Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
- Considering ways to improve the current voluntary merger notification scheme, including the alternative of the mandatory pre-notification of mergers (with one option being the use of very low thresholds: target turnover in the UK exceeding GBP5 million; and the worldwide turnover of the acquirer exceeding GBP10 million).
- Since there have been only two "cartel offence" (individual criminal) cases prosecuted in the UK since 2003, altering the current requirement that the individual's action was "dishonest", with the preferred option being removing the "dishonesty" element from the offence and defining the offence so that it does not include agreements made "openly". This latter seems to mean, in the proposal, a rather bizarre situation in which the offence will not be committed where customers are told about the cartel potentially giving rise to the offence (i.e., an arrangement to fix prices, limit production or supply or share markets or customers) at or before the time of purchase of the relevant product or service.