Answer ... Where CMA officials intend to enter business premises without a warrant, they must provide the occupier of the premises with the following on arrival:
- details of the subject matter and purpose of the investigation; and
- details of the offences committed by not complying with the CMA.
Before entering the premises, CMA officials must provide the occupier with evidence of their authorisation to carry out the visit. This will be a document signed by a senior CMA official authorising the CMA investigator to enter the specified premises. CMA investigators will usually present photo identification to demonstrate their authority to enter the premises.
When exercising their ‘seize and sift’ powers, CMA officials are further required to give notice of the following to the occupier of the premises:
- a description of the items that have been seized;
- the grounds for seizing the documents; and
- details of provisions of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 in relation to making an application to the court for the return of documents.
If no one is at the premises at the time the CMA intends to enter by force, officials must take reasonable steps to inform the occupier of the intended entry and give it and/or its legal representative reasonable opportunity to attend.
If the premises are unoccupied or the occupier is absent, officials must leave the premises as secure as they found them. Where an occupier cannot be informed of the inspection, a copy of the warrant must be left in a prominent place within the premises.
In all cases, the occupier is entitled to legal advice and, where deemed reasonable by CMA officials, reasonable time will be allowed to enable legal advice to be sought.
Parties have a right to apply to the High Court to vary or discharge a warrant in civil investigations. Parties must make any such application immediately and keep CMA officials informed. CMA officials will generally delay the search for a reasonable period, not exceeding two hours.
A party has the right to notify the CMA officials where it believes that a document does not fall within the scope of the investigation and query why copies are being taken. Where copies are taken nonetheless, the party has the right to make representations to the CMA after the inspection as to why the document is not relevant and should be returned or destroyed.
Where the CMA takes copies or extracts of a document, the party has the right to receive its own copy. The party is also entitled to accompany CMA investigators during the inspection of the premises, in order to monitor what steps they have taken.
In general, parties must ensure they comply with CMA officials and avoid:
- intentionally obstructing CMA officers;
- destroying or falsifying documents; or
- providing false or misleading information.