What role does the OFT play in regulating competition in the UK?

 

The Office of Fair Trading is a non-ministerial government department operating to enforce both consumer and competition law within the UK.

The OFT is also the UK’s economic regulator, acting as the umbrella organisation for the many regulators which oversee specific industries.

The stated aim of the Office of Fair Trading is to ensure the proper functioning of markets through active and vigorous competition, and to prohibit scams and cartels when they arise. The Office of Fair Trading came into being in 1973.

Visit our regulatory compliance page for the legal background on this topic.

Role in competition law

Competition law in the UK comes from two main sources; our domestic competition legislation, and that produced by the European Union.

The OFT works domestically to investigate infringements of competition law which have a domestic effect, whilst the EU Competition Commission investigates infringements which have broader consequences.

Competition law is practiced by experienced solicitors with knowledge of both systems. You should seek professional legal advice if you or your business are involved or suspected of involvement in anti-competitive practices as the fines are high and penalties include imprisonment.

Call us on 0800 1777 162 to arrange a referral to a commercial law specialist.

Anti-competitive behaviour

There are two main categories of anti-competitive behaviour prohibited by law.

  • The first concerns collusion or the formation of cartels. Cartels exist when two or more businesses in a particular sector come together to agree to altering prices, production or distribution with the goal of disrupting proper competition.

This is a crime, because it disrupts the proper workings of the free market. The result is higher prices for consumers, and sometimes, reduced choice.

  • The second main category concerns abuse of a dominant position. This is less about collusion, and more about businesses being aware that they should not take advantage as they are in a strong market position.

Monopolies are not encouraged because they lack competition, and big players in a market can act to try to stifle competition to their advantage. This is also prohibited.

The OFT carries out investigations and also receives tip offs. Although they can make judgements themselves, complaints relating to anti-competitive behaviour can be made in court via a competition law solicitor.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on competition law, let us put you in touch with a local specialist solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above to speak to an advisor.

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