The government of the United Kingdom is seeking comments on proposals designed to strengthen and streamline the UK’s competition regime.
The proposed reforms of British antitrust enforcement are contained in draft legislation that the UK has released for public comment.
The proposed measures are among the revisions being contemplated as part of an overhaul of both civil and criminal antitrust enforcement in the UK. One of the major changes will be the birth of a new consolidated competition watchdog agency – the Competition and Markets Authority (the “CMA”), which be launched next month and take over antitrust enforcement in April 2014.
According to Competition Minister Jo Swinson, “These measures are part of wide-reaching reforms to improve the UK competition regime, making sure the new Competition and Markets Authority has the tools in place to operate efficiently and effectively from day one.”
The proposals would give the CMA the power to coordinate antitrust enforcement among the UK’s economic regulators. This means that the CMA would have the power to decide which regulator should pursue which case, although the government expects that the various competition agencies would generally agree on which enforcer should handle which case.
Enforcement would also be strengthened by extending the power to grant search warrants to the Competition Appeal Tribunal. Currently, antitrust enforcers can get such warrants only from the High Court and Court of Session. The government expects that expanding the ability of competition authorities to search premises will help streamline civil and criminal procedures for dealing with antitrust and cartel cases.