The UK Government sees promoting healthy competition as a vital component in its plan to stimulate growth in the economy - so it’s hardly surprising that competition developments are happening fast. With the increasing trend of private competition actions, more intensive regulatory enforcement and new tougher penalties, your business needs to take stock and assess the extent to which these developments will affect your long-term operations and compliance strategy.
Regulatory power and scrutiny always seem to be on the increase, but it’s the growing trend of private actions against those who infringe competition law which may be the new deterrent. This is an important consideration and a danger which is all too easy to underestimate. In fact, damages actions are seemingly being brought as a matter of course now once – or even before – a competition infringement has been established.
Any individual or business can bring a claim before a court if it has suffered loss as a result of other’s infringement of competition law. This fact means that competition compliance goes well beyond a mere regulatory issue. Instead, your business could face financial exposure, management distraction and the strain of adversarial proceedings as a result of challenges from all angles (including from competitors) if you don’t make sure your employees know and adhere to the UK and EU’s competition rules.
There are many other proposed competition law changes. Although several are far-reaching and already controversial, the momentum for ongoing change in this area is clear to see.
A momentary check of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and Competition Appeal Tribunal websites reveals the level of regulatory activity at the moment. They’re certainly not standing still waiting for the creation of the Competition and Markets Authority. On the contrary, we see the OFT and sectoral regulators (who all have the power to apply and enforce the prohibitions in the Competition Act 1988 and Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) all reach for the new guidance which allows them a new maximum starting point for penalty calculations increased from 10% to 30% of relevant turnover.
This new penalty regime brings them in line with many European authorities and the European Commission itself.
Whether you need advice to improve your current competition compliance framework, educate your employees in competitor-facing parts of your business or representation in commercial disputes involving competition issues, we can help.
We work alongside PwC LLP and have access to the global reach of PwC’s global network of firms across most worldwide jurisdictions. We can work with you to assess your competition framework needs and provide the solutions you need to meet your compliance requirements.
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If you’d like to talk to us about your competition compliance needs, you can contact Jonathan Isaacs, Senior Manager in our UK Dispute Resolution practice on 0207 804 6675, or Sarah Cornwell, Senior Associate, on 0207 212 5539 for further details.