Media Briefing Note: Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill Cracks Down on Criminal Cartels

25 APRIL 2013 – The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is set to be given Royal Assent soon, represents the most significant change to UK competition law in over a decade. The new legislation will officially establish the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will take over the competition law functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission (CC). The CMA, which should be in place by April 2014, will have a primary duty to promote effective competition.

The new legislation will have an impact on all aspects of UK competition law.  Key changes include encouraging companies to engage with the CMA on mergers while still at the planning stage, and the introduction of tighter procedures and greater information gathering powers in relation to merger control and market investigations.  Although the CMA will continue the work of the OFT in investigating suspected breaches of competition law, it will have extra information gathering powers, and it will be easier for the CMA to impose interim measures.

However, the biggest change is that, under the new rules, prosecutors will not have to prove "dishonesty" in criminal cartel cases.

Hogan Lovells Of Counsel Christopher Hutton commented:

"The biggest substantive change concerns the changes to the criminal cartel offence, making it easier for prosecutions to be brought against individuals.  Although the current offence has been on the statute books for over a decade, the enforcement record to date has been negligible.  If prosecutions become more frequent, which can be expected, that will represent a profound change in the way in which competition law is enforced in the UK." 

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