The UK Government has today launched a consultation on reforming regulatory and competition appeals.

The consultation (which can be found here) sets out proposals to change significantly rights of appeal in relation to decisions made by Ofcom, Ofwat, Ofgem, the CAA, Office of Rail Regulation and Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation, as well as competition decisions by the OFT and Competition Commission.  The consultation document states that the principles that it covers could apply more widely to other economic regulators, such as Monitor, although they have not been included in this consultation.

A number of reasons are given for the Government’s proposals.  These include the fact that appeals should be more focused on “material errors”, less costly and time-consuming, less of a “drag on decision-making”, and that there should be more consistency in terms of the approach to appeals in different sectors.

While the emphasis is on streamlining processes, some of the proposals could significantly reduce the scope for regulatory and competition appeals.  In particular, the Government is consulting on replacing “merits” appeals with a judicial review standard or introducing specified grounds of appeal, with a view to limiting the cases in which a regulator’s decision can be challenged.

The proposals also include:

  • encouraging the use of confidentiality rings during the administrative stage;
  • a number of suggestions aimed at ensuring that the most suitable appeal body hears each appeal;
  • limiting the evidence and time limits for appeals;
  • reducing the incentive to appeal regulatory and competition decisions, including through costs consequences;
  • removing the right to appeal a non-infringement decision under the Competition Act 1998.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 11 September 2013.