OFT and the Competition Commission to Merge

As part of its reform programme to save public money, whilst at the same time increasing the transparency and accountability of public bodies, the Government has announced plans to merge the Competition Commission and the competition functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in order to form a single competition and market authority.

The announcement states that the new body will be responsible for merger regulation, market investigations, cartel and antitrust cases and also a number of functions with respect to the regulated utilities.

The Government has also carried out a review of what it describes as the ‘bewildering array of public, private and voluntary bodies, sometimes duplicating each other in their efforts to inform, educate and advise consumers of their rights’. In order to streamline the sector-specific functions currently handling consumer complaints, the Government plans to transfer Consumer Focus, Consumer Direct and other consumer bodies to the Citizens Advice service, together with the consumer-related research and advocacy work currently undertaken by the OFT. Trading Standards will be responsible for the enforcement of almost all consumer law, with expert teams co-ordinating on a national basis where necessary.

The proposal will be published for consultation in early 2011. Whether or not the Government will take this opportunity to make other changes to competition law remains to be seen.

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