On 1 April 2014, the Competition Act 1998 (Concurrency) Regulations 2014 came into force. The Regulations make provision for the Competition and Markets Authority and sectoral regulators who can exercise Competition Act functions concurrently with the CMA (which includes Ofwat) to co-ordinate the performance of those functions.
The sectoral regulators have generally been reluctant to exercise their Competition Act functions, preferring instead to rely on their regulatory powers of enforcement under their sector-specific legislation.
As part of a new competition regime, regulators will be obliged to consider the use of competition law powers when embarking on an investigation, and to give primacy to those powers ahead of their sector-specific regulatory enforcement powers.
The CMA has the ability to remove a competition case from a sector regulator, if the CMA considers that doing so will further the promotion of competition for the benefit of consumers.
The sector regulators and CMA have established a UK Competition Network as a forum for exchange of information and best practice.
The competition law with which water companies must comply is not changing, but the way in which that law can be enforced has now changed.