UK competition law modernisation takes another step forward

United Kingdom

The modernisation of UK competition law took another step forward on 17.11.04 when the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that its new rules of procedure have been adopted.

The new rules reflect the OFT's recently acquired role in enforcing EU competition law, as well as its powers under UK competition law. The OFT's role in EU competition law enforcement dates from 1 May 2004 when an EU Regulation ("Modernisation Regulation") devolved a great deal of EU competition enforcement to EU Member State national competition authorities.

The new rules set out the OFT's procedures when it takes investigation and enforcement action in relation to restrictive agreements and abuse of dominance under EU competition law (Articles 81 and 82 EC Treaty) and UK competition law (Chapters I and II of the Competition Act 1998).

The approach taken in the new rules brings the OFT's procedures more into line with EU procedures which were updated by the Modernisation Regulation from 1 May 2004. For example, the new rules reflect the fact that notifications can no longer be made for a decision on whether agreements or practices breach the prohibitions on restrictive agreements and/or abuse of dominance. The new rules also deal in more detail with issues such as confidentiality of material submitted to the OFT and access to the OFT's case files.

The OFT has also published draft guidelines on how it will apply EU and UK competition law taking into account the impact of the Modernisation Regulation. These are currently still in draft form although it is expected that they will be adopted very shortly. Once the guidelines are in force, businesses will be able to predict with greater certainty what impact modernisation will have on them.

If you have any queries on the new rules, or competition law in general, or if you would like a copy of our revised Competition Dawn Raid Response Pack, please contact Susan Hankey at [email protected] or on +44 (0) 20 7367 2960 or David Marks at [email protected] or on + 44 (0) 20 7 367 2139.