On 25 April 2013, the UK Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 passed into law. The most high-profile competition law change is the establishment of the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA will bring together the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission, which will both be abolished. The CMA will be the UK’s lead competition authority, with wide-ranging powers to tackle anti-competitive behaviour.
The Act also makes various procedural changes to the enforcement of competition law, including in relation to the “cartel offence” (under which there is personal criminal liability in the UK for involvement in certain cartel behaviour, including price-fixing, limitation of supply or production, market-sharing and bid-rigging). The OFT is keen to make greater use of the cartel offence provisions, which to date have been rather a disappointment in terms of the number of convictions. In a recent speech a senior OFT official commented that “the OFT is increasingly thinking and behaving like a mainstream criminal enforcement agency” and that “[these] changes to the law should mean more cases get to the prosecution stage”.
Companies would be well advised to refresh compliance messages and training in the light of the changes.