The Competition Commission (CC) has unexpectedly added to its provisional findings in its local bus investigation, outlining concerns that certain operators may be segregating areas, seeking to protect their “core” territories. This is based on the CC’s earlier expressed concerns about possible “tacit” co-ordination in the sector.
The new development follows a review of evidence that the CC received too late to assess and include in its initial provisional findings. The evidence relates to retaliation and signalling, and also includes communications between certain operators in the North East and North West. The CC was “…struck by the sensitivity and specificity of the topics discussed, including in some instances a willingness to disclose what would ordinarily be regarded as commercially sensitive information”. The CC found that some large bus operators perceived that certain routes “belonged” to them and threatened retaliation in response to attempts by competitors to encroach on what they considered to be “their” territory.
The CC considers that the evidence strengthens its case for proposing a package of remedies to reduce the incentive and potential for anti-competitive behaviour in this sector.