BIS has published for consultation detailed proposals on the reform of the competition regime in the UK. As set out in my article, this will result in the creation of a new competition body (the Competition and Markets Authority or CMA) which will replace the competition functions of the OFT and Competition Commission (CC). The consultation also considers proposals for fundamental change in the UK’s existing merger regime, including the option of moving to a mandatory pre-merger notification regime.

The other significant proposal relates to the existing cartel offence. A key element currently is the requirement to show that an individual was acting ‘dishonestly’ – the Government has set forward 4 proposals to reform the cartel offence, all of which propose removal of the ‘dishonesty’ element. Given that only two cases have been prosecuted since the offence was introduced in 2003, it is clear that the Government is focussed on strengthening the deterrent effect of the offence and making it easier for the CMA to bring criminal prosecutions in parallel with civil investigations for competition law offences.