The UK Government's Department for Business Innovation and
Skills (BIS) announced on 14 October 2010 that the Competition
Commission (CC) and the competition and merger investigation
functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) would be combined in
one authority devoted to competition and markets. At the same time,
OFT functions in relation to consumer issues would be transferred
to other bodies. This proposal comes as part of the wider reform of
the administration of government and the review of public bodies
announced by the Cabinet Office, details of which can be
The stated aim of the Government in combining the CC and OFT is
to strengthen the competition regime, to streamline procedure and
to make it less burdensome while delivering cost savings. A final
decision from the Government as to the exact form of the new body
will follow a public consultation in 2011.
Under the proposal, which can be found here the new combined OFT-CC body would be
Cartel and antitrust cases
Functions, to be specified, in relation to regulated
The proposed merger will be met with approval in some quarters
where the feeling is that the overlap between the OFT and the CC
can produce delays and add unnecessary expense. On the other hand
there are concerns that the powers of any new body should not be
diminished in terms of its capacity to deal with large business
Enforcement of consumer law is currently shared between the OFT
and Trading Standards. Consumer complaints are handled by a number
of bodies including the Citizens Advice Bureau, Consumer Direct
(which is operated by the OFT) and Consumer Focus. Research and
advocacy work is handled by the OFT, Consumer Focus and some
specific consumer bodies in regulated sectors.
BIS has suggested that consumer issues should in the future be
handled by the Citizens Advice Bureau (which is a charity) and
Trading Standards (which are run by the local authority). Under
this plan, Trading Standards would be given responsibility for the
enforcement of the majority of consumer law while the Citizens
Advice Bureau would take over most of the consumer-related research
and advocacy functions handled currently by the OFT and Consumer
It is also proposed that the postal regulator Postcomm will be
merged with communications regulator Ofcom to deliver greater
efficiencies and form a single communication-focused regulatory
body. The changes will be put forward in a Public Bodies Bill to be
considered in the New Year.
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This case is very important in that it is one of the first judgments where damages have been awarded for breach of competition rules in UK. It relates to MasterCard's alleged anticompetitive card fees (credit and debit cards).
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