Those with an interest in corporate governance are also likely to be intrigued by the story that a new competition authority, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has been formed. The government has said that the objective of the body, which brings together the Competition Commission and certain Office of Fair Trading (OFT) consumer functions, is to promote competition both within and outside the UK.
No casework will initially be taken on by the new body. Until 2014, such responsibilities will remain with the CC and OFT, as the CMA assumes the role of a shadow body. By next spring, it is expected to be able to adequately assume these responsibilities, from which point it will proceed with its overall ambition of being one of the world’s premier competition and consumer agencies.
There are five goals that it has outlined to achieve this, as will be of interest to those pursuing the highest standards of corporate governance: delivering effective competition; extending competition frontiers; refocusing consumer protection; developing integrated performance and achieving professional excellence. In addition, a Ministerial Statement of strategic policies, which must be taken note of by the new competition authority, has been issued by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
The CMA is asked by the government strategic steer to identify markets where competition is not working well, before using the tools for competition and consumer enforcement that it considers most appropriate to address the constraints on competition in these cases. In the process, consumer behaviour should be taken into account, while there should also be a willingness to consider potential concerns about competition affecting business-to-business markets. The body is also asked to assess whether quicker growth could be achieved in certain sectors through enhanced competition.
Other duties of the CMA, according to the steer, will include playing a key role in challenging government where barriers to competition are being created by government; robustly and fairly enforcing antitrust rules in the event that they are breached; and providing leadership and working alongside partner agencies to ensure the achievement of positive competition outcomes.
Those looking to attain the highest standard of corporate governance within their firms will be interested to read the government’s description of the steer as a transparent statement of its aspirations, publicly making clear the government’s long term competition and growth goals. However, the CMA is not bound by the steer.