“The coming months will see the European Commission continue to focus its energies on its flagship Digital Single Market agenda, with results also expected from various other initiatives, such as its on-going e-commerce sector inquiry.
Closer to home, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of market investigations by the UK regulatory authorities, and we expect this wide use of market investigation powers to continue in the future. These on-going investigations proceed against the background of a potential “Brexit”, as Britain and Europe await the outcome of the June 2016 referendum.”
Simon Neill, Partner, Osborne Clarke
21 April 2016 – Market review into the ownership and competitiveness of infrastructure provision
In November 2014 the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) announced a market review into the ownership structures of, and competition in, the provision of payment systems infrastructure.
The PSR published its interim report on 25 February 2016, recommending that the top five banks should cut their shares in VocaLink (see here). The regulator has asked for comments from interested parties by 21 April 2016. The final report is expected by summer 2016.
30 April 2016 – Net neutrality
On 30 April 2016 the EU Net Neutrality Regulation comes into force, enshrining net neutrality into EU law.
The Regulation is designed to ensure that users have access to online content and services without discrimination or interference by internet service providers. All internet traffic must be treated equally, subject to limited exceptions.
Q2 2016 – Department for Transport (DfT) review of rail regulation
On 10 December 2015 the DfT published a consultation inviting evidence and views on the effectiveness of the current regulatory regime for the railways and on possible modifications that would be compliant with EU law.
The consultation ran until 15 January 2016 and responses are currently being analysed. The outcome of the consultation is expected in April 2016 and will make recommendations for enhancing the effectiveness of the rail regulatory regime to secure a safe, effective and efficient railway, with specific reference to the role of the Office of Rail and Road.
25 June 2016 – Energy market investigation
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has until 25 June 2016 to complete its investigation into the energy market. This is an extension on the original deadline of 25 December 2015.
The CMA decided to extend the reference period due to the scope and complexity of the investigation, the extent of the possible remedies package that is being contemplated, and the detailed responses it received to its provisional findings.
The CMA published a summary of its provisional remedies on 10 March 2016 and the final market investigation report will follow in June 2016, prior to the statutory deadline.
Ofgem in particular is likely to be active in taking forward the recommendations made by the CMA following this investigation, and the government has already committed to implementing the CMA’s recommendations.
12 August 2016 – Retail banking market investigation
The CMA is currently undertaking an investigation into the retail banking market. The original statutory deadline for completion of the investigation was 5 May 2016 but at the end of January 2016 the CMA announced its intention to extend the length of the investigation.
The new statutory deadline for completion of the investigation and publication of the final report is 12 August 2016, with a provisional decision on remedies due by May 2016.
Q2/Q3 2016 – Market review into the supply of indirect access to payment systems
On 10 March 2016, PSR published its interim report following a market review into the supply of indirect access to payment systems and whether competition is working well for service users.
In its interim report, the PSR highlighted certain concerns around the limited choice faced by smaller payment service providers, technical challenges in providing the necessary quality of service, and potential barriers to switching. In view of a number of current or anticipated market and regulatory developments, however, the PSR is not proposing to take any direct action itself.
The PSR’s interim report is open for consultation until 5 May 2016. It then expects to publish its final report in summer 2016.
Q2/Q3 2016 – E-commerce sector inquiry
On 6 May 2015 the European Commission launched a sector inquiry into the e-commerce sector. The aim of the inquiry is to gather information on private barriers (particularly contractual) to trade across national borders set up by companies supplying goods and services online, and to assess these barriers in the context of EU antitrust rules.
We anticipate that the Commission will publish its preliminary report for consultation in mid-2016 and its final report in the first quarter of 2017.
Q4 2016 – Strengthening Ofgem’s powers of enforcement in gas and electricity market
In December 2015 the Department of Energy and Climate Control opened a consultation focused on the strengthening of enforcement powers in the gas and electricity markets. The consultation document put forward a number of suggestions which aim to better equip Ofgem, so it is able to investigate non-compliance by energy companies and take steps to protect consumers. The proposals include plans to widen Ofgem’s powers to request information and investigate market abuse, and will apply to all categories of energy licence holder.
Changes to the way in which Ofgem is able to operate and enforce its remit, so as to best protect consumer interests, are expected before the end of 2016.