UK Antitrust Regulator Gains New Post-Brexit Powers

Britain’s competition watchdog is to be given new post-Brexit powers to levy huge fines on companies that rip off consumers, speed up antitrust cases and protect innovative small companies from predatory rivals, reported The Financial Times. 

Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, will next week propose streamlined and strengthened powers for the Competition and Markets Authority, intended to drive innovation and growth. 

The reform comes two years after former CMA chair Lord Andrew Tyrie demanded an arsenal of measures to transform the watchdog into a consumer champion. Tyrie, who left the organisation last year following a boardroom coup, called for swifter enforcement against companies and directors, a new statutory consumer role and hefty fines. 

The government stopped short of granting the CMA a new statutory role to protect consumers in its draft rules but proposed beefed-up powers including heavy sanctions for corporate wrongdoing and direct fines. 

The CMA will be able to fine companies directly for breaches of consumer law without going through the courts, under the new proposals. Companies that rip off customers with misleading claims, unfair terms and conditions or hard-to-exit contracts would also be liable for fines of up to 10 percent of global turnover. 

To speed up the CMA’s cumbersome enforcement processes, Kwarteng is considering allowing the watchdog to widen its use of interim measures in order to combat harmful practices before an investigation is formally completed.

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