As part of its "bonfire of the quangos", the Government announced last year that the Competition Commission will merge with the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading to form a single "Competition and Market Authority". Rather than a bonfire, this has actually been more of a gently glowing ember.
In Spring 2011, BIS (Department for Business Innovation and Skills) published a consultation paper on the options for reforming the UK competition regime, saying that the Government's aim is to produce stronger, more cost effective and efficient competition law regulation. The Government consulted on the merger and substantive legal changes in relation to:
- the control of large mergers;
- market investigations;
- extending the "super-complaint" system to SMEs;
- quicker procedures for enforcement actions;
- strengthening the criminal cartel offshore; and
- giving CMA greater powers over regulated utilities (eg, broadcasting, railways) which currently have their own regulators.
As would be expected, both the OFT and the Commission responded to the consultation and although both bodies agreed with the merger, unsurprisingly, they differed on the details. Nearly a year on from the original merger announcement, there does not appear to be a great deal of progress on the proposed merger. The Government has not announced the date for publication of the draft legislation that will implement the changes, but it is not expected to take effect until 2013.