UK Watchdog Criticized for Disbanding Covid Unit

The UK competition regulator has been criticized by lawyers and its former chair Andrew Tyrie for closing a COVID-19 unit at the start of the year, months before a crisis over rip-off travel tests prompted the watchdog’s intervention, reported The Financial Times.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) established the COVID-19 task force to respond to consumer and competition issues thrown up by the pandemic last March. But it quietly disbanded the unit and its oversight committee between July 2020 and February this year, according to two individuals familiar with the matter. 

Earlier this month the watchdog was asked to undertake an urgent review into rip-off and substandard COVID-19 travel tests by the government. Speaking to the FT, Tyrie said the government was “right to be concerned” about PCR tests, adding the CMA’s task force would have assisted its work on the issue. 

Related: UK Lowers Cost Of COVID-19 Travel Tests After Probe

He added, “The CMA has been scarcely visible on this [Covid and PCRs] since closing down the task force and ending any serious attempt to promote online complaints from consumers, leaving them without the information they need to monitor the development of detriment.” 

One competition lawyer said, “It’s a surprise that they shut [the task force] . . . Ultimately it’s what they actually do that matters, but I’m not sure you can keep your finger on the pulse as well without a dedicated task force.”

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.