An Opportunity for Reform of the U.K. Competition Regime

Antonio Bavasso, Simon Pritchard, Oct 11, 2010

The Government’s spending review provides an opportunity to look strategically at possible reforms in U.K. competition law enforcement. The reforms that modernized the U.K. regime of competition enforcement with the 1998 Competition Act and the 2002 Enterprise Act have largely been successful. The United Kingdom is now seen as one of the worldwide leaders in best practices for competition enforcement. Actions of competition authorities and regulators are subject to an effective system of appeal and judicial review by a respected and authoritative Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”).

The rhetoric of the “public interest” that would bring larger parts of competition law enforcement back into the political sphere under a public interest (as opposed to competition) test seems to have receded.  This retreat should be welcomed, as it would have put the United Kingdom out of step with international best practices. The financial crisis has not shifted that paradigm. Cases such as Lloyds/HBOS are-and should remain-the exception. There is, however, scope for reform to help the system, as a whole, deliver more for less.