On 14 December 2015 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issued its draft Annual Plan for 2016/2017 and opened the content up to public consultation. The draft Annual Plan details the CMA’s planned priorities, commitments and initiatives for 2016/2017.
Work in specific markets and sectors
In relation to specific markets/sectors the CMA intends to:
- continue to develop its work in the digital sphere. It will identify key specific digital behaviours and practices that it can usefully address, and will prioritise these accordingly. This will include providing input to the European Commission’s work on fostering the Digital Single Market (on which, see our hub here) and reducing barriers between Member States to online commerce for businesses and consumers;
- look at emerging markets, markets for public services and markets served by SMEs where it feels there is evidence of lower levels of awareness and understanding of competition law;
- conclude the two on-going major market investigations into energy and retail banking and take forward the implementation of any remedies in relation to these investigations;
- launch a review of the CMA’s commentary on retail mergers;
- conclude the private healthcare market investigation begun by the Competition Commission; and
- undertake an analysis of price comparison websites, with the aim of understanding whether problems exist in the sector and, if so, what changes might be needed to make sure it operates competitively and in the best interests of consumers.
More generally in relation to all markets and sectors it is planned that the CMA will:
- carry out a high volume of enforcement cases and projects;
- focus on both large and small (local) cases, in an effort to send the message that no business is beyond the reach of competition enforcement;
- prioritise projects where there are systematic market problems or where consumers are unable to exercise choice; and
- open new criminal investigations and pursue prosecutions as appropriate.
Interested parties are invited to comment on the draft Annual Plan: comments can be made online or by contacting the CMA directly up until 21 January 2016.
It is clear from the draft Annual Plan that the CMA is planning a proactive and fast moving, consumer-focused agenda for 2016/2017. The strong focus on enforcement is also a reminder of the need for robust competition compliance programs. In light of this, companies should take the opportunity to review compliance, to ensure they are ready for any potential encounters with the competition watchdog.
Update 18 March 2016: The CMA has adopted the final 2015/2016 annual plan in substantially the same form as the draft document.