On 29 March 2018 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its annual plan 2018/2019 which sets out its agenda and priorities for the coming year. The plan places a clear emphasis on the needs of vulnerable customers, building consumer trust in markets, analysing online and digital markets and supporting productivity and wider economic growth. Also, there will be a focus on building its understanding of the digital economy and improving forensic tools available in this sector.
Market investigations and mergers: The CMA is targeting a more streamlined process with regard to market investigations and mergers. It aims to make the merger control process more efficient by continuing to fast-track appropriate mergers to Phase II as soon as possible. It is seeking to complete 70 per cent of Phase II merger cases without an extension of the statutory deadline; as well as seeking to implement Phase II merger and market investigation remedies without the need for an extension to the statutory deadline in at least 80 per cent of cases (increased from 70 per cent last year). The CMA also plans to launch two to four new market study projects, in addition to the ongoing market investigation on investment consultancy (in which it is utilising an improved, more streamlined process) and the recently launched market study into heat networks.
Enforcement: The CMA is building itself up to meet a higher volume of cases and investigations. It has increased its annual target for new enforcement investigations from six to 10, whilst aiming to resolve investigations more efficiently and rapidly, pursuing interim measures, and seeking to secure commitments from the parties where appropriate. The CMA has also committed to maintain its target launches of consumer protection cases or projects at a minimum of four for the year.
UK exit from EU: The CMA is preparing for an increased role in the review of UK aspects of global merger and international competition enforcement investigations. The CMA notes the total resource budget for 2018/19 is £68.74 million and this could rise up to £91.44 million to enable EU exit preparations. Additionally, on 28 March 2018 a letter from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggested that the CMA is best placed to take on the role of State aid regulator at the point when an independent UK State aid authority is required. This would further increase the scope and workload for the CMA going forward.