15 Mar, 2012

City of London Law Society Response to the Government’s Announcement of its Proposed Reforms to the UK Competition Regime


The Government today (March 15th) published its proposals for the reform of the UK Competition Regime.


These proposals followed an extensive consultation exercise conducted by the Government which closed in June last year in which it outlined its options for change.


The City of London Law Society (CLLSCompetition Law Committee submitted its detailed views in response to the Government’s Consultation paper and has been working closely with Government to develop detailed proposals.


Commenting on the Government Proposed Competition reforms, Robert Bell (pictured), Chairman of the CLLS Competition Law Committee and Competition Partner at Speechly Bircham LLP said: “In broad terms we strongly support the Government’s competition reforms.  The proposed reforms show they have listened very carefully to our detailed views.


“We particularly endorse the proposals on injecting greater fairness into antitrust investigations which is vital to retain business confidence in the regulatory process.  In addition the retention of voluntary merger control is a positive boost to promoting growth investment and confidence in the UK economy.  The Government has rightly turned its back on imposing mandatory notification which would have imposed an unnecessary regulatory burden on business.”


Bell continued: “On the negative side however, we have serious concerns about the proposal to remove the dishonesty element from the Cartel Offence (S188 Enterprise Act 2002). In addition the offence will not be made out if the parties have published details before it is implemented.


“We look forward to seeing the Bill to study the proposals in more detail. But our feeling is that such a change is premature given that so few cases have come before the Courts.


“Enforcing the new offence is likely to be problematic. The Government does say it will need to be subject to a required intent to enter into a cartel agreement but it is not clear how this will be implemented. In addition the removal of the dishonesty element will utterly transform the offence lowering the bar to criminal prosecution and giving rise to potential injustices”. 

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