What happens if your business is investigated by the Competition Commission?

 

What is it?

The Competition Commission was set up by Government to investigate mergers, markets and acquisitions within major UK industries. The main aim of the Competition Commission is to maintain competition within UK markets to ensure that the UK remains a competitive place for the benefit of businesses and consumers. The Competition Commission replaced the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1999. 

Why might it investigate you?

The Competition Commission only investigates a merger, market or acquisition if it is asked to do so. Most often the Office of Fair Trading, which oversees UK competition law, will make such a request, although it may also come from a specific industry regulator. Examples of industries which are investigated include airports and airlines, public transport, communications, energy, and financial services. In very rare circumstances, a matter may be referred directly by the Secretary of State.

What are the procedures?

The procedures the Competition Commission follow are set out in the Enterprise Act.

The first stage is the appointment of a group who will conduct the investigation. Each investigating group has a Chairman who holds the casting vote. The groups define their own process, but in any event must report on a merger within 24 weeks and a market within two years. There are special periods for other types of investigation.

The main phases of investigation include information gathering, taking witness statements and verifying information provided. Then the Competition Commission investigating group will identify the issues and provide them in a statement of issues. Parties involved may at this point submit a response, which is then considered.

The final stages involve notifying parties of provisional findings, and the consideration of possible remedies. The final stage is the publishing of their report.

What should you do if investigated?

If your business is referred for investigation by the Competition Commission you should consult a competition solicitor for legal advice. In general, Competition Commission investigations will concern mergers and potential acquisitions, although they will also look into dominant market positions and the potential abuse of power by businesses in such positions. An experienced competition law solicitor will be able to help you adjust your business practices to ensure you stay within the current legal boundaries.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on the Competition Commission, Contact Law can put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local solicitors please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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